How often have you found yourself saying: “I need to change”? It doesn’t matter whether the change involves eating right, exercising more, earning more money, etc.
Our hearts tell us that we really want our lives to work better. We start out—time after time, resolved to “do better” this time around.
At first, all goes well. At least until our head joins in, apparently determined to keep us from changing. The repertoire of critical voices inside our head often includes “My life isn’t right,” “I know I’m the problem” and/or “I’m always standing in my own way.”
Then, the tug of war begins in earnest. The longing of the heart battles the worried, critical voices of the head–each side bound and determined to get its own way.
Our response at this point, tends to include one (or even both) of the following:
- We concentrate our efforts on what we DO want. We’ll set intentions, create a dream board, recite affirmations. But the Law of Attraction can go only so far. Even the most carefully designed plan is still bound to meet some resistance along the way.
- Attempting a logical response, we then try to understand the part inside that doesn’t want to change. We attempt to reason with the critical part, or even defend against the voices that tell us we’re doomed to fail even before we start. Unfortunately, all we get from all this effort is lots of inner judgment, blame and shame.
My mentor, Ann Weiser Cornell likes to say, “What we don’t realize is that the very way we are speaking about the problem is standing in the way of solving it…..That saying ‘how can I get myself to change?’ is sort of like trying to move a rug while standing on it!”
What might happen if, for a moment, we started with the source of the unease we’re feeling–the part that doesn’t want to change? A great start would be to shift that initial statement to something like this: “I want to change, but I don’t.” [Or “I want (or need) to eat better, exercise more, earn more money, etc.”] This at least recognizes that there are two sides to the issue.
Notice, for a moment, how it feels to express it this way : “I want to ____, but I don’t.” Better, perhaps, yet it still sounds a bit judgmental doesn’t it? It’s so easy for us to dip back up into our head, with its critical perspective.
Now, let’s see what might happen if we add just one little word: “something.” As in, “Something in me wants to change and something doesn’t.” Ah, so there are two parts–a part that wants to and a part that doesn’t want to. Now there’s even more space around that stuck place inside. It’s not “just” me – it’s not who I am.
Taking that even one step further, we might say: “I’m sensing something in me that’s feeling frustrated and yearning for change. It sees another part of me as the problem, and is trying to get it to change.”
Can you feel how that adds even more space? And maybe even room for a little curiosity to bubble through–especially about that second part that doesn’t want to change.
Now we’re acknowledging that the not-wanting part might be as valid as the part that does want to change. After all, it probably has its own very good reason for being the way that it is. We don’t have to become best buddies with it. However, we can at least respectfully allow it to speak, be heard and understood.
And then–instead of seeing the not-wanting as an enemy to be eliminated–perhaps we could see it instead as a gift of life-forward energy just waiting for us to quietly and curiously unwrap it? Could there really be a fragile space of wanting hidden beneath the critical judging thoughts and worried, anxious feelings?
In this way, we’re no longer trying to get ourselves to change. Instead, we’re standing in a relationship of compassionate curiosity toward each of these parts.
Here’s an exercise you can try out for yourself.
First, complete the following sentence by filling in the blank with something in your own life you wish to change:
Something in me wants to ________________, AND, something in me doesn’t.
Take a moment to notice how that feels inside.
Once you’ve listened to the recording, notice how it feels inside. Is it different than when you started the exercise? [I welcome your feedback – either in the comments below or via email]
And, if you’re still feeling a bit “stuck,” you might want to schedule a “live” Guided Focusing Session that’s designed especially for you (and your unique journey).
You may freely share and/or reprint this article in other electronic or print publications, provided you include the following attribution:
ASK ME House article © 2010 Mary Elaine Kiener, RN, PhD, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. As Creative Energy Officer at ASK ME House LLC, Mary Elaine assists caregivers to care for themselves as well as they care for others. For more information, visit: www.askmehouse.com and/or www.stresswell.com.
Please also send me a courtesy note with a copy of the publication.