Blog 32. Relationship Wisdom: We Cannot Change Our Past But We Can Change Our Choices.
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What I observed throughout all my years of seeing clients is that we do not actually change.
We are not computers that can be re-installed.
Who we are, is often a direct result of our past experiences. And these past experiences can lead us to develop certain patterns of behaviour or habits.
The past can also determine how we approach life, the relationships and careers we choose, the decisions we make and how we feel.
As we grow and develop emotionally, it’s like we are all programmed, and it’s our job if we so wish, to discover what those programs are.
You can begin to discover what these programs or patterns are, by looking at what it is, that’s holding you back from achieving your relationship and career goals.
By spending time looking back at your past, you can begin to understand where and why your patterns of behaviour started. Investigating why you feel certain emotions and what occurred to make you feel the way you do, will help deepen your self-knowledge.
Also, and as I wrote in Blog 1, your parent’s relationships becomes your relationship blueprint.
By exploring your parent’s and your own relationships, you will discover more about yourself. I repeated this frequently, “Birds of a feather flock together and we attract what we know. People mirror our issues and if you explore why you are attracted to certain people your self-knowledge will grow. So learn to watch yourself like a hawk. You will learn a lot.”
Earlier, I wrote that therapy is not about change, rather, its about understanding; understanding your patterns so that you can understand why you behave as you do; what your knee-jerk reactions are; and how and why you ‘feel’ as you do.
Once you understand your past and what makes you ‘tick’, then and only then, can you begin the subtle journey of acceptance.
Accepting (I wrote about this in Blog 19), embracing and owning your patterns are crucial to self-development. Once you realize that the majority of your emotional responses are rooted in the past, sometimes via experiences that may have even been beyond your control, then you can begin accepting yourself and all your so-called flaws – especially those that might be self inflicted.
And remember too, that many of our patterns have become ingrained habits that no longer serve their purpose. Thankfully habits can be broken. It just takes a bit of focused tenacity to break them.
To repeat, “Therapy is not about change – it is about understanding – as well as acceptance, then choice”.
And herein lies my introduction of a massive new way of thinking:
Many of my clients hoped that by seeing me, their lives or relationshihps would drastically change. I had to constantly remind them that life is not like that and even therapy cannot change someone. All that therapy can offer is to hold up a ‘behavioural mirror’. It was then up to the clients to make the right choices to suit their relationships or careers and so on.
I also made this clear by using the following analogy of someone attracted to alcoholics: “Even after long term therapy, you may still attract an alcoholic, but everything is on a scale of 1-10. As you realise why and whom you attract, then as you accept this, you can begin to make different choices. In other words, rather than choosing the ‘park bench alcoholic’ you could choose someone who just needs a drink once a week”.
Or to use my analogy of a scale of 1-10, choose someone who behaves ‘around the 1-3 mark rather than the extreme 7-10 mark’.
This means that you never have to be a victim of your past. You just need to learn to choose more wisely.
In other words we don’t intrinsically change – we are who we are.
Unfortunately, what this means is that sometimes what we experience in childhood can be very powerful and it can influence how we behave consciously or unconsciously – for the rest of our lives.
This is why having self-knowledge is so important and to use my favourite quote by the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who said, ‘In Life one is condemned to live life forwards and to understand it backwards’.
So as a result of what I observed for so many years – we do not ultimately change.
However, via the journey of self-discovery and a lot of hard work you can, through understanding then acceptance, make better choices to suit your life goals.
Note: © 2014 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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