By Michael McColley, CFT Graduate Intern
As human beings, we are often propelled to find what feels “best,” “right,” and “healthy” for our lives. While words like these may seem helpful, they can often be vague and daunting when applying them to daily living. I believe that language is one of the most powerful tools that we have and that through finding helpful words, we can find a path to well-being. In therapy, I come together with my clients and we discuss what is happening for them on a regular basis in terms of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and interactions with friends and family. I also believe that change is most conducive when individuals are able to find others who offer support, trust, and safety.
Change can be difficult at times because it can often go against our comfortable, regular way of doing and being in the world. To understand the difficulty of change, it is helpful to think of a thermostat. Thermostats regulate temperature and adjust themselves according to the cold and heat introduced in the house. If a thermostat is set at 68 degrees and a door is left open in the middle of a hot summer, the AC kicks on to bring the temperature back down to the set temperature. Likewise, if it gets too cold in the house, thermostats kick on heat to bring the temperature up. How does this relate to change, though? When we are used to doing a certain behavior and attempt to make changes, we often find ourselves going back to old behaviors. If we are accustomed to thinking negatively about ourselves or our situations, it is generally much easier to continue thinking negatively, even when we might try to have a positive outlook .
Knowing that we are inclined to keep things within our comfort zone, how can we introduce change in our lives? By making small, sustained changes over time while recognizing that we tend toward keeping things the same. A professor once told me something very wise: “Opposite extremes produce the same outcome.” Often when we desire to make a change in our lives, we go all out—whether it is running too far on our first day back on the track or going to bed at 7 pm instead of 1 am, we can be extreme in trying to make change. When we swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction, we often end up stuck, just as we were before the change. The key is to make a small change and sustain it over time. To recognize our tendency to keep things the same is to be mindful of ourselves and our patterns.
Mindfulness is becoming aware of what is happening both inside and around us and what I believe to be a compass on the journey to change. It is being awake and aware and most importantly paying attention to life. Through paying attention to our feelings and patterns, mindfulness allows us to see the path to change. I believe therapy can be life-changing and the reason that I became a therapist— it gives me the opportunity to sit with others and pay attention to often overlooked aspects of daily living. Nevertheless, to change can feel daunting at times. Therapy is helpful because it introduces us to aspects of ourselves and our lives that we might easily overlook—the same aspects that we can slightly and slowly change over time to make life feel more workable for us. I believe that each of us has the necessary inner resources, such as self-love, self-compassion, and insight, to make helpful changes over the course of our lives.
If you are desiring change and not quite sure how to begin, I encourage you to recognize the human tendency to keep doing “more of the same,” while also actively making small, sustained changes. Change happens one moment at a time. If you find yourself wanting to make changes in your life, I hope that these ideas can help you spark some motivation. Therapists can also help us create the change we desire for our lives. If this is true for you, feel free to call Eugene Therapy at 541-868-2004 to make an appointment to speak with one of our trained clinicians. Therapy can help us access these ever present but often hidden inner resources on our path to change.