How to avoid the most common obstacle to change

woman shadow

It’s Tuesday morning and you are three days into your new clean eating plan.

You’ve been feeling great and proud of yourself.

But this morning was rough. You got up late, the kids were arguing the entire way to school, and now you are facing that box of donuts in the break room with far less resolve than you had about skipping dessert last night.

This is where the rubber meets the road on follow through. Stress is the biggest challenge to our good intentions. And that’s why compassion is your friend when it comes to change. Don’t over-rely on logic or resolve, when a self-compassionate moment may actually be what you need.

Here are some things to remember:

Knowing and feeling are two entirely different things.  Unless there is an organic source (meaning a physical condition such as schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders), people generally have full knowledge of what they “should” do or not do.  People with addiction don’t lose their awareness of this knowledge.  Yet they act against it again and again. Why? Because knowing is not the same thing as believing. Knowing something means it is part of the most evolved and conscious part of our logical mind.  But believing something involves feeling. The core of our feelings/emotions are part of the “lizard” or less evolved part of our brain.  Evolution necessitates that this emotional part of our brain has the power to “trump” our rational mind. So we can know something to be true, but emotionally believe something different.  Our emotional “truth” can easily be outside our conscious awareness.  And covert beliefs that actually don’t serve us, can be heavily defended with deeply-felt, creative “logic”.  So if you find yourself explaining (or defending) a rationale with a tight chest, red face or other physical sign of strong feeling …That’s a good signal that knowledge may be in conflict with emotional belief.

If you’re not feeling pain, you’re missing out on joy.  Clients’ disbelief of this fact is one of the most prevalent delusions I’ve  encountered.  Life, both esoteric and biological, very often has a certain symmetry to it… Time and again I have observed that if someone is not feeling the full range of their emotional pain (from mild annoyance or stress in a moment, to full-blown grief or rage from the past) they are also not feeling the greatest range of joy that is possible.  You can’t have a capacity for joy but not pain. One simply doesn’t come without the other.

How do we change? The answer is an extension of the previous point.  If you’re not feeling pain then you can tolerate almost anything.  Change happens when we experience emotion of an exceptional intensity – either negative or positive.  If you are not really “feeling” the discomfort of circumstances you’d like to change, then continuing them can seem to be the most comfortable path.  People find change difficult when they’ve disconnected to some degree from their emotional experience.  Drug and alcohol addiction are some of the most difficult changes to make because addictive substances  exploit the natural tendency of human nature to avoid discomfort.  From this perspective, the catch-22 of addiction actually begins to make sense. When we do make a change, it is because we reach a critical mass of discomfort or are inspired to the point of joy to do something different.

 

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