20 years of working with individuals, groups and organisations tells me that fear devours the hope for pleasure. This is ironic given that everything we do is either pleasure seeking or pain avoidance. As children we learn quickly ‘the rules’ for these. The actual truth of it gets lost to us early on. Clients come to me because of pain and suffering yet the idea of change is so petrifying that resistance to it is enormous. In the face of change, familiarity with the lives we already have becomes very seductive. It is exactly our zones of undisturbed ‘comfort’ that make us into the victims and villains of our stories- When met with opportunities, we tell ourselves “I couldn’t say that; do that, think that, expect that, or become that’.because, because, because”.
A client of mine said today “My friend says he’s worried I’ve changed as part of my therapy process”. Thank god, I thought. Therapy if it’s good will send ripples through your relationships and that is the point. When clients choose to look closely at where their own such narratives come from, it is confronting to read the small print. It goes something like this:
“Immersion in the environment you are growing up in may be toxic to ingest. Side effects vary but can include: ‘distorted reality’, ‘delusional thinking’, ‘negative emotion’, ‘disruptive behaviour’, ‘disturbed relationships’, ‘anxiety, ‘depression’, ‘suicidal ideation’, ‘madness’, ‘ill heath’ in some cases ‘death’ and more commonly-‘emotional blackmail’ and ‘scapegoating’.
The stories we tell ourselves are built on ignorance.
I see broken hearts and a crippling loss of hope whenever I assess someone for my change programmes. The work I do guides people to release the blocks and fear based systems that suffocate their lives in order to connect to the inspirations within them. Everybody has heroism in them and nobody needs to be a victim of their future. People only know how to repeat what they’ve learned and so many end up settling for mediocre lives and continue to restrain the internal voice which knows ‘there is truly better than this’. We feel a certain way as a result of our moment to moment decisions, and these decisions advance us, keep us stuck or push us back. Seemingly insignificant things gather together and result in suffering. Pain is an inevitable part of any life, ongoing suffering, as I see it is a choice. Recently, I assessed a man for therapy and he said this- “I’m always upsetting my girlfriend and I feel so guilty, I hate myself”. He’d left her at the altar. Yep, that will upset most women. He’d lied about wanting to get married, or even the fact that he loves her. You may be thinking what a bastard. Well, I’ve seen this many times and more so recently. What if we give it context? His girlfriend is pushy as hell. So, is his mother. He learned early on that life is hard and he is not worthy of happiness- ‘others always come first. From choosing a meal at a restaurant to his choice of wife, he lied every time and he didn’t even think about it. Why? Because like many, he has an addiction and it is the most acceptable addiction in our culture- people pleasing. This backfires big time and it backfires every time. When we walk the path of least resistance, we expose our willingness to sabotage our efforts and remain miserable.
If a time comes when we get serious about your own change, there can be a massive, rapid rewrite to the story. A rewrite is subject to preparedness to work hard and it’s not for the faint hearted. Keep the words of Bill Harris in mind, “Life is a leap into the unknown and if you want a guarantee, buy a toaster”.
HCPC/BPS Practitioner Psychologist