If Awareness Is First, What’s The Second Step To Change?

“Change is the only constant” has been a favorite quote of mine for many years. This well-known quote has been attributed to Herakleitos of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher who expounded the theory that change is central to the nature of universe. The original Greek, Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει, can be translated several ways: “everything flows and nothing stands still,” “nothing endures, but change” and, “change alone is unchanging.”

The Unique Self Coaching Collective is dedicated to change . . . the change that comes when it occurs to you that you have a case of “mistaken identity,” as you wake up to the amazing realization that not only are you are not separate–you are one with all there is. That discovery profoundly changes your perspective. Once you discover your true nature, the unique way you embody your True Self becomes clearer, and your Unique Self can emerge.

As we’ve talked about over the weeks, our coaching process begins with dismantling what’s called our “False Core Pattern” through a series of practices. Last week’s blog started to talk about how these practices work by explaining that we have to learn to see the False Core Pattern in order to loosen the grip it has on us. Once you discover this deeply held pattern and see the impact it has on your life, of course you will want to change it–right? And a part of you does. However, there is another part that will resist with all its might. And that applies not only to you, but to all of us!

This is what’s known as the “paradox of change,” made famous by psychologist Carl Rogers, when he said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” One of my (Barbara) professors said it more succinctly: “You have to be where you are before you can be somewhere else!” That concept has served as a guiding light for me, as I’ve worked as a therapist and coach with people over many years.

Now that doesn’t sound so difficult, but what we know to be true is that self-acceptance–accepting where we are, with compassion–is a huge stumbling block. Here’s why: when we envision a change we want to make in life, it is because we want to be different. Inherent in the desire to change is a negative evaluation of where we are now. While on the face of it that may not seem to be a problem, it becomes one because most of us are not capable of even a neutral self-assessment, much less a compassionate one. Instead, we are self-critical, and even brutal, in our judgement of ourselves. This sets up an internal dynamic that undermines our efforts and virtually ensures change will not occur.

So let’s look at my colleague, Claire’s example from last week’s blog. Once she discovered her False Core Belief of “I’m too much,” and explored the way her False Core Pattern had grown around it, she naturally wanted to change. While becoming aware is indeed the first step, it is only the first step. When she discovered the way she thought, felt and acted (FCP), change didn’t just magically follow that realization.

And that brings us to the second step: As Rogers so wisely advised . . . you must accept yourself as you are. However, most of us move immediately to self-criticism. I suspect Claire’s first response was to say things to herself like: “Why are you like this?” “Can’t you see how difficult you’ve made your life?” “Just let go of the way you think!” And the internal war began, with the critical voice raging, and the rest of her giving up in defeat.

I imagine most of you can recall what you’ve said to yourself when you’ve attempted to change. I suspect you have the look of recognition on your face right now that I’ve seen on so many faces, as I described the role self-criticism plays in failure to change. Granted, there is something counter-intuitive about accepting yourself as you are, when you want to change something. Deep within us, we are afraid that without the prodding, self-critical voice, nothing will happen—the role it so often plays is to goad us into action. But years of experience tell me that it’s not true. The truth is that Rogers got it right: accepting yourself as you are – compassionately, and with love – is the key to change.

 

 

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