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We learn from CHANGE

A Few Observations on Change and Transformation


Circumstances Change—Whether or Not You Learn From Them

The human species is never satisfied. We are constantly altering, adjusting, revising, correcting, improving, fine-tuning, amending, modifying, transforming, fiddling with, or tweaking some aspect of themselves, their bodies, their relationships, their work, and the world in general. I personally take part in this activity by once a month visiting a beauty parlor and having my hair length, color, or style changed and it was there that Jill Place and I first met.

Discovering we have several interests in common, we made a date for lunch and conversation. We haven’t stopped talking since. Over a period of more than a year, we’ve often discussed the subject of change from both our personal and professional experience. This article shares the conclusions we’ve reached on how people can most effectively create, and sustain, change in their lives.

If you keep these ideas in the back of your mind as you read the articles on LearningPlaceOnline (LPO), we think you will agree that what one must do to alter eating habits is not significantly different from what is needed to achieve change at work, or successfully raise children, or live with enthusiasm despite a chronic disease. They all involve a recognition of where you are in your life today, where you want to go, what qualities and actions you will need to get there, and the courage to take the first step.

Incidentally, even if you aren’t self-reflective, hate change and don’t have any intention to work on becoming “the best you can be,” from time to time circumstances will force you to make adjustments to life, as we note in Stages of Life. We believe that when this happens, when circumstances force you to respond in a new way, you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to develop the skills that will make life as easy as possible.

Professionals Are Helpful, But Definitely Not Essential

You might assume that we have a bias toward believing that becoming the best you can be requires the help of a therapist or personal coach, since I am a licensed psychotherapist and Jill is a registered dietitian. Yet we want you to know that it’s very possible to become the great person you want to be without professional help.

It is true we’ve both spent a great deal of time in therapy and are grateful for insights we’ve gained in that process, insights we would not have easily made on our own (see Looking Through More Than One Window). However, we would have had a much easier time of it (and needed less therapy) if, before we began, someone had told us what we know now — at at least had tried to tell us. That is why, while we recognize experience is a great teacher, we want to share our thoughts with you. We’re hoping the lessons we have struggled to learn can help shorten your learning curve.

Incidentally, in saying that professionals aren’t “essential,” we want to emphasize that some kind of support system always helps. And it is nearly impossible to overcome the effects of severe childhood abuse without therapy. But often an empathetic friend, one who can listen without injecting his or her own agenda, may be all you need as you explore the articles on LPO and begin to put the ideas we suggest into action. Along the way you will find many ideas besides Jill’s and mine, for many authors have agreed to reprint chapters from their books or have written original pieces for LPO.

If you are currently seeing a therapist, coach, or nutritional counselor, or plan to see one because you feel it would help in your case, we recommend you copy the articles you like and share them with that person. Between what we suggest, what that person would add, and what seems to fit best for you in your specific situation, you’ll have a formula for success.

The Attraction of a Quick Fix

We are a society of fast food, gotta have it, give it to me now, immediate gratification types. Perhaps that’s because many of us were raised with all-wise television fathers who could solve problems and bring harmony to their beautiful families in thirty-minutes (minus time for commercials). Perhaps it’s because we’re told “it’s not your fault” and offered pills for a myriad of problems that, in another era, we would be expected to resolve ourselves through hard work. Perhaps it’s because we want to believe the promise that we can “melt away” inches of fat without any effort on our part.

In any case, it wouldn’t surprise us if, somewhere on the Internet, there is a website promoting an esoteric technique (for a hefty fee, of course) that can cure you of all distress and disease, cause you to magically lose unwanted weight and keep it off, prevent you from making mistakes, exorcise every remnant of guilt, regret and failure, make your spouse gladly give up the annoying habit that drives you crazy, assure your promotion at work — and effortlessly point your life toward some great purpose that will bring you fame and fortune.

If success in life were that simple, the world would be in way better shape than it is. The truth is that changing behaviors and situations you don’t like is going to require at least a moderate amount of effort on your part. The good news, however, is that change doesn’t cost a fortune. And rather than feeling you have to achieve a total make-over at once, you can use the approach I suggest in Learning From Wise Ben Franklin and become a different person one step at a time.

An Effective Method for Getting Your Act Together

During one of the first lunches Jill and I had, I told her about my experience with Psychosynthesis. This comprehensive approach to human growth and development has always seemed to me to be the most realistic model for change. It is certainly one that is very quickly and easily understood by both professionals and the average person.

That is why Jill was very excited about this approach and saw that it could be used effectively by nutrition specialists, since they generally don’t have training in psychological counseling yet are constantly working with clients whose emotional issues often prevent them from being successful in meeting their weight loss goals. Soon she was using this technique to help her clients and made it a part of her “Getting Lighter” program.

At the time of our launch, I am only able to give you a brief description of Psychosynthesis that is taken from He Hit Me Back First!,* a book on the use of this technique for children by Eva Fugitt (available from Jalmar Press) that is excerpted in our Raising Children section. As soon as the launch is complete, I will turn my attention to writing several articles on this subject and will create an animated illustration of this holistic method for change.

[* NOTE: By clicking on the title and buying this book from Amazon.com, you help support LPO.]

“Psychosynthesis is a creative approach to the harmonious integration of the whole personality — the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of one’s self. Utilizing the will, intuition, and creative imagination, psychosynthesis aims to develop within each person an awareness of that deep center which brings these various parts into the unity of wholeness. This awareness is gradually brought into consciousness through a series of techniques, including imagery and visualization, designed to achieve harmony and synthesis within a person and between the person and her surroundings. Psychosynthesis, then, is a process of connecting with the Self—the core of our being—so that it can direct our life and relationships with joy and wisdom.”

Many Different Techniques Can Lead to Transformation

What is the best way to change habits and shift attitudes?

Ask that question of any psychologist, psychiatrist, marriage counselor, child therapist, social worker, nutritionist, preacher, priest, teacher, and spiritual counselor, not to mention your neighbor, and you’ll discover there is no uniform answer.

Or try going to a bookstore and looking at the shelves of self-help books. You’ll not only find more books than you could read in three lifetimes, even assuming you’d be interested in that much self-reflection, you’ll discover hundreds of “original” theories and loads of authors who believe one school of psychology or another is THE road to transformation.

Whom should you believe?

Good question.

The answer depends on so many things that we can only offer this advice—learn about different points of view (we offer several on this site) and try those that seem to most comfortably fit and that make you feel as though you can really make the changes you want to make in a relatively brief period of time.

What will work when you are just starting to take a good look at yourself will most likely be too simple several years down the road. But remember that you won’t be very far down any road if you don’t take the first step!

We feel that the material we present on LPO is applicable to those who are just starting their journey of self-discovery as well as those who have a fairly good understanding of themselves. And we don’t claim that the material we present will appeal to everyone, but we’re fairly confident that somewhere in these pages you will find something of value (if not for yourself, then to suggest for a friend).

Also, as you use this website to explore something you want to change about yourself, your body, your relationships, your work, or the world in general, remember that what you experience affects what you think. What you think affects what you believe. What you believe affects what you do. What you do affects what you experience.

That is why you can change old ways of doing things by changing any piece of that cycle—and why there is not a single road to change and transformation.

That is also why our articles are designed to help you shift your thinking, or your beliefs, or your actions, or your experience. Which specific arena you are most comfortable changing is entirely up to you. But we are convinced that with each person who works toward bettering themselves in some way—and with each successful change in thinking, acting, believing, and experience—we can, together, make the world a better place.

By Arlene F. Harder, MA, MFT, together with ideas by Jill Place, MA, RD



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