How to Change Yourself

Every day we come across several people who seem to be doing very well in life. We are left wondering as to how amazing it would be if we too could have a bit of the good life that other people may be living every day. There must have been more than one instance during which we have made a list of all the things that we would like to change in ourselves. If only I could be a little more like him; if only I could be as charming as her…

We are also constantly bombarded by several articles on the internet about the awesome things that people seem to be doing all the time. There are also articles that give us apparent quick fixes to our personalities. Self-help books are available in a plenty that talk about step-by-step ways to improve your personality. If you think that we are going to argue against such practices, you are wrong and right. You are wrong in that we are not saying that it is pointless to want to and make efforts to improve our personalities. You are right in that we think that it is not advisable for us to try and change things in us just because the society does not look at it very favourably or even because we ourselves are not very happy with what we are.

Confused? Don’t fret, we will make it clear. The philosophy of Gestalt Therapy will help you understand what we mean. A Gestalt Therapist will call this the ‘Paradoxical Theory of Change’. Simply put, the more we try to close ourselves to our real self, the more we deny our true sense of identity, the more we try to  become something that we are currently not, the more difficult we make it for ourselves to bring about a change. According to Arnold Beisser, the psychiatrist who coined the phrase, when we are trying to change ourselves forcibly, we are constantly at war with ourselves. We are constantly moving between what we ‘should be’ and what we think we ‘are,’ never fully staying with either, for long enough. Needless to say, shifting the roles constantly can be a pain for any of us. Additionally, when we are unable to be what we think we should be, we are giving invitation for guilt. This guilt demands that we try harder to change ourselves and thus the vicious circle gets increasingly more vicious.

Therefore, before we decide to make improvements or to change ourselves for the better, we have to learn to ‘be’ as fully as possible in our current situation. This does not imply that we go about recklessly living life according to our impulses. The focus of a Gestalt counsellor will be to encourage us to enter and stay with whatever the experience is at the moment; to‘re-own’ parts of ourselves that have been disowned. By fully experiencing and staying with the feeling, we are increasing our awareness and this helps us make more informed choices and thus live a more meaningful existence. The French novelist Proust wonderfully encapsulates what we are trying to say when he writes, “to heal a suffering one must experience it to the full.”

So, the next time you are bombarded by the thoughts of being unhappy with who you are, try to experience that feeling. Just stay with the feeling and perhaps, things might appear different.

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