Convince Yourself That Change is Possible and It Is What You Want

This article is reprinted from:

http://expertbeacon.com/convince-yourself-change-possible-and-it-what-you-want/#.UaODgNhZ6Kl

How many times have you said things like: If only I could lose these five pounds, I’d feel so much better. I would love to stop smoking, these things are so expensive. I want to go to the gym. I want to get in good shape for the summer.

If you’re like most people, you’ve had conversations like this about many things. Unfortunately, you haven’t figured out how to take that huge first step. Some of you have plunged ahead only to have the next step be the one that brings your change momentum to a screeching stop. Here are some ideas that will help you to start the change process.

 

 

 


Do think small change

People inevitably think about change in large chunks. This viewpoint is a setup for failure because if your goals are too big, it’s easy to become frustrated. Think about making your changes small – lose 1 pound this week, go to gym once. If you succeed with this goal, your can take on a bigger goal next time.

 

Do some part of the change

Sometimes when people make the decision to change, they feel overwhelmed. They don’t know where to start. Should I stop drinking, eat better, lose weight, work on my relationship? Sometimes it’s just good to do some part of the change. If I want to stop drinking, maybe I should: read about not drinking, read about celebrities who have stopped drinking, or remove all the alcohol from the house. These are all examples doing part of the change process.

 

Do the opposite of what you usually do

This is called the opposite theory. Let’s say that your goal is to meet the woman of your dreams. You continue to go to places to meet this woman and strike out every time. Opposite theory would suggest that you stop looking. Do activities that enhance your well being. Mister or miss right will show up when you are not looking for him or her.

 

Do keep good data of your change

Treat your change process like a good research experiment. Write down your starting weight and other measurements like BMI, etc. and do regular weigh-ins. Log in your data weekly so that you can see the change. Your perception of the change may be different than the facts. Stay with the data, not how you feel.

 

Do allow yourself to be ambivalent

Not everyone is sold on the idea of change. In fact, most people are not. There is usually the healthy part of the person that wants to change. There is also the safe and comfortable part of the person who does not. This is normal. There is no reason to beat yourself up about things that you should want to do but don’t, like “I should want to lose 25 pounds”. You will find your way when you are ready.

 


Do not beat yourself up for perceived failures

Change is hard. No one is perfect. No one changes perfectly. Change is always 3 steps up and 2 steps back. People learn more about change from their setbacks than from their success. Be gentle on yourself, accept that these setbacks are part of the change process.

 

Do not have unrealistic expectations

It’s easy to fail when you have set up way too big a step of change, “I will lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks” for example, or “I will be divorced by the end of the month.” Be realistic, the old adage “slow and steady wins the race” is applicable here.

 

Do not sabotage your successes

Ambivalence is the battle between the healthy part and safe part of yourself. Sometimes when people are succeeding in their battle to change, they set themselves up their failure – the all you can eat buffet when on a diet, the bachelor party when stopping drinking, etc. Identify the risk factors that could lead to a setback and don’t put yourself in harms way.

 

Do not feel that this is your only time to get it

Most people have several attempts at failed change before they get it right. All of these failures are actually success, because they give good information about the triggers that set up failure. They also highlight when change will be tough. When you are ready, you will succeed.

 

Do not get frustrated

It’s easy to get the “f*ck- its” about the change process and go backwards. Have patience with yourself and recognize that change is hard work. Allow yourself to have setbacks. You are human right? Remember the best hitter in baseball fails 7 out of 10 times. Have some stick-to-itiveness in the process.

 


Summary

It’s easy to do the same old same old over and over. It’s familiar, predictable and safe. You can have so much more but you have to take that first BIG step. Be aware that you may have pitfalls, but recognize that they are opportunities for learning. No one fails at change, they just get better at it. You can be safe and miserable or take the risk and be happy. You know which one works best. Hopefully you’ll pick the change side. Always remember that change is possible.

ExpertBeacon. Expert advice for the everyday crisis

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GPS

As a resident of New Jersey, many of our roadways leave a lot to be desired.  Some are constructed with little logic others are just long roadways filled with construction and repair.  The worst of these however is the four way dance of hell: Rt 17/ Rt 4/ Garden State Parkway/ Rt 80 intersections around Paramus.

The other day I had the misfortune of driving in this area, but fortunately I had my GPS.  I plugged in the address and I was off to my destination.  When it said turn left, I turned left.  When it said make a right, I followed the command.  Blindly trusting my GPS, I followed her every direction and sure enough, in spite of the the tortuous  and confusing area, I reached my location.  Upon completing my mission, I reflected upon my blind faith of this mechanical device. I  made a decision to  turned my directionality over to my Garmin.  I thought about how interesting this is–many people will trust a machine to make them safe but do not listen to their internal GPSs to help them with important life altering decisions.  Why is it that we are so willing to turn left and right on the highway because Garmin says so, but are so unwilling to go left or right in life?  Why do we negate our own “gut feeling” and do unhealthy, illogical or irrational actions?

A typical GPS answers the questions:

Where am I ?

How do I get to my destination?

How long will it take to get there?

Many people come into my office asking similar questions.  Some of them do not know their “destination”- they just want it to be different from where they are right now.  Many of them have been “off course” for many years and have come to therapy for some map guidance.  They have been ignoring their own internal GPSs.   This has led to issues such as addiction, infidelity, depression or anxiety.  Some of them are so lost they cannot make a simple left or right; they are stuck.

How does a person begin the process of using their internal GPS? For many people this will be a hard task.  Some people are so distant from their internal mechanisms, that they either do not listen to their inner voice, or the voice they hear is a critical, self-destructive one.  They need to change their self- loathing  sounds to ones that have positive affirmation and positive self-talk.  Other people have GPS settings that are other directed.  These people lack confidence in their decision making and need lots of reinforcement and approval from others.  They need to work on healthy risk taking and challenging their “catastrophizing  what if” thoughts.  When people challenge these thoughts, they discover the world hasn’t ended and they are more competent than they initially believed.  Regardless of the degree of the issue, the person needs to rediscover their inner self and work on the belief that they are ok.  If they develop that inner confidence they can take better care of themselves.

For the sake of my own self care, I’m glad that my excursions to driving hell are minimal. On these occasions, my external GPS gets me to where I need to be.  Although working with an internal GPS is not quite as easy as putting in an address, the outcome of getting to where you need to be is quite rewarding.  Remember change is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert a long time movie reviewer with Chicago Sun-Times died yesterday after a long battle with cancer.

Roger was also a recovering alcoholic who in August 2009 told his story about his recovery.  His blog should be titled “AA 101” because he tells about  how AA  works from his own perspective.  There are AA program related materials as well as you tube videos that accurately describe alcoholism and recovery in movies.

Read the blog here

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Favorite books

My office is full of conversations.  Many are sad and painful.  Others are joyous and happy.  When a client has lots of pain, particularly in the beginning stages of therapy, they need as many resources as possible.  I will often recommend that a client get a particular book in order to continue their progress between our sessions.

At my pinterest  account, some of my favorite and most recommended  books are  pinned.  They are listed with a brief comment about each book. You can find the list  here.

Let me know which ones  you’ve read that have been helpful .  If there are ones that are not listed, let me know those as well.  Happy reading!!!

 

 

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The Question

What questions do you get asked over and over again about your practice?

My model of therapy involves having two way conversations.  Like most conversations, there are discussions and questions.  Some of the questions are logistical—payment, appointments etc, others are more therapeutic. The question that comes up more often is actually not directed towards me.  It is a question asked rhetorically by my clients about their right to have their feelings.  These are a few samples:

“Why should I be depressed?  I have everything that anyone would want.”

“Why should I be upset about my bonus?  There are so many people who don’t have jobs? “

“I really shouldn’t be upset about my husband talking to that woman at the party, should I?”

This sample of questions shows that people doubt their self perceptions and right to feel.  Self doubts then lead to self loathing about not only feeling these feelings, but having them in the first place.  Their self perception is that they are weak, shallow, and ungrateful people.  This process of invalidation followed by self loathing becomes a downward spiral of lower self esteem.  What a crappy process!!!

How do we change this process?  Give myself permission. What does that mean? According to thefreedictionary.com, permission means – approval to do something.  When I give myself permission, I am granting myself the approval to have feelings, and feel my feelings.  That is powerful permission!!  Permission also comes with its own self-talk channel.  This “channel” can run in my head at any time and tell me “it’s ok to have these feelings”; “it’s ok to feel these feelings”.  This ongoing permissive self-talk gives me the power to own my feelings.  They are mine after all!!!  Once I start the process of permission, I can then challenge my self doubts and self perceptions and can empower myself to be a more feeling person.  If I can own my feelings without the self doubt, I can then work on changing other bad patterns and cycles.

Remember, change is possible!

 

 

 

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Hall of Shame

The Major League Baseball writers decided Wednesday to not accept Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens into its Hall of Fame.  They were not accepted into the hall due to the allegations that they used performance enhancing drugs(PEDS).  It was a huge statement by the writers to say that ballplayers who take PEDS in order to improve their performance are not Hall of Fame worthy.

This  Hall of Fame voting  got me to think more intently about this issue.  Would I take PEDS  to improve my performance– to  hear clients better, to become more perceptive,  to develop more insights and make changes occur faster?  People would get better faster, and would make more long lasting changes.  As a result, I could see more people, improve the quality of more client’s lives, and make more money.  There is no doubt that this would lead to appearances on talk shows, and calls for keynote addresses at conferences.  They would  hail me as that famous psychotherapist with that great new therapeutic technique in which people got  better, faster.

On the down side, every now and then I would act out in rage and yell at my clients for being stupid.  Most of them would know that this was just a therapeutic technique to get them better, and would ignore my behavior.  In addition, there would be a little buzz about how an above average therapist turned into a mega superstar in a short period of time.  There would be some allegations from a client who saw some pills on my desk—(he came in too early for his session). These would be explained  to the questioners as my vitamins that keep up my energy level.  I would explain to anyone who asked about  my new found success,  that it was a result of  working hard, and training regularly to become a better therapist.  When the state and federal boards would investigate allegations of Performance Enhancement, I would simply deny ever using PEDS.  When reporters and other investigators would come around asking questions of my use, I would deny over and over and over again that I had ever used PEDS, period.   Due to the embarrassment, the anguish, the sense of failure, the humiliation, my fading reputation,and the public’s loss of faith in therapy, I I would never own up to using PEDS. I would hold that secret forever.

Although Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens did not get into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but they can be admitted to a far better place.  They are important entrants  into  the Hall of the Shame. This is a place where Bonds, Sosa and Clemens, can feel the remorse, guilt, shame, embarrassment and self loathing about their behavior. It’s a place where smug, arrogant and self-centered people hang out because they’re better, smarter, more manipulative, and more creative than the rest of the world.    In fact, The Hall   is a place where many of my clients had taken up residence until they realized that they could get out.  They recognized that by admitting what had happened, it gave them the freedom to begin to make change.  They were no longer bound by the code of secrecy.  They could make life style changes, become honest, and have integrity. They could change many of their behaviors and work on having a path of doing good and right deeds. They left their Hall of Shame plaque behind and moved onto living a healthier life.  The Hall of Shame is not a place that many people want entrance to, however it’s a place where addictions, infidelity, mental illness,  physical and sexual abuse take you to.  The best part, is that unlike the Hotel California, you can check out and leave it all behind.

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Stormy Monday

(The original version of this blog was  written  after Superstorm Sandy.  It was a narrative of the events of the storm and the many feelings that were going on. The original was “written’  in my head at 5AM one day as I was hoping and praying to go back to sleep. Making a decision to not get up and write this at 5am in  a house void of power and heat would have  made a long day, longer. For people in new york, Hoboken, South Jersey and theJersey Shore, Sandy has been nothing but longer days. Although it makes me feel guilty for writing about my lost power and lost heat,  these are my reflections and recollections of the “lost week”)

 As everyone knows the date of October 29, 2012 will always be with us as the date that Superstorm Sandy (SSS)decimated much o fNJ, created havoc, chaos and unforeseen damage.  Sss for people in northern NJ was a long drawn out process creating anticipation and anxiety.  The beginnings of the stages of grief started that Monday,–there was denial—“they don’t know what they’re talking about, they’re always wrong”. As the storm progressed there was bargaining  “ok the people in NY and in the shore, they’re getting it bad, maybe we’ll just have some rain and a little wind.” There was  more denial, more bargaining and then darkness.

The darkness was the onset of many of the feelings we began to feel.  Here are some of  them;

1)anxiety, boredom, isolation

The darkness brought anticipatory anxiety– When will the power come back?  How long will this last? Is there some place to go?  The anxiety gave us ultimate powerlessness. We lacked control.   Most  people are used to structure, control, and predictability in their lives. When the rug gets pulled on these, you get lots of  anxiety. This anxiety for many had physiological symptoms which made the anxiety worse.  The worsening anxiety led to a decrease in functioning which made for a very bad time.   In addition to anxiety, there was an increase in isolation.  In the state of emergency that we were in, staying in was the only safe option.  However, staying home in cold and dark homes increased the isolation, anxiety, and boredom. Once the state of emergency lifted, the gas crisis hit.  The anxiety and isolation were multiplied because people were afraid to go far, fearful of having to be either without gas, or waiting on monster gas lines. So the alternative was to stay home.   Staying in the dark and cold also increased our boredom.  The boredom increased once 5pm happened since it was darker.  The draining of energy due to anxiety, isolation and boredom  became a new stressor due to the monotony of life.

2) anger, depression

As the days went on,  people’s anger and frustration increased.  JCP&L  became an easy target. they were the bad guys, they messed up, how could they have dropped the ball again-after Hurricane Irene just one year earlier?  Some of us vented this anger at JCP&L customer service reps(sorry) who were overmatched and underinformed.

People began to run out of gas for their generators and cars and  searched for gas.  People lined up for hours, at times based on only a rumor that a particular station would open.  Other people started their search in the early morning trying to avoid the lines.  Others sojourned to Pennsylvania where there was less impact by sss. Gas  lines brought out the worst in people.  There were fist fights, arguments, and more expressions of people’s total lack of control and ultimate panic.

Our lack of  electrical power,  left our electronic devices as a nice pieces of plastic with little value beyond that.  Charging stations opened in all communities and although this should have increased hope, and decreased isolation, it  actually increased frustration, anger and depression.

In addition, people spent a good amount of time at home  avoiding gas lines, and seemingly increasing their safety and security.  However, As the week went on,  family members spent way  too much time together.  This caused frustration and tension and many conflicts within couples and families.

As bad as the anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, and isolation were, oddly, there were also positive things that happened as a result of the storm.

3) increased family connections

Family members talked and talked and talked.  There were no technological distractions.  People could share stories, events, and history of things  that were rarely talked about.  Kids played board(bored) games and cards.  Some turned the experience into a camping trip using fireplaces and having that “roughing it” experience of camping.

4) people were nicer

As much as some people were short tempered, there was also a sense of community—we were all in this together. Everyone was compassionate about other people’s struggles.  We wanted to listen to their stories about lack of power, heat, and water.     In one local bagel place, it sounded like group therapy, with everyone sharing their particular issue.  In addition, I  heard many stories of neighbors helping neighbors with food, gas, tree cutting, running electrical extensions to generators.  In  the nicest and weirdest story, absolute strangers joining the cause to help others

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CBdEb7FXiw

5) people utilized skills that they typically  wouldn’t

Many people used all of their “handy man skills”, especially when typically they don’t use them.    Trees got cut, people rigged up ways to continue to survive. For me, I did the unthinkable, I waited on lines.   I have a well know “line allergy”.  I do not stand on checkout lines.  In fact,  I hardly go to stores.  However in sss, I gratefully sat on a gas line, stood on line at dunkin donuts, waited for a table at a restaurant. I think this metamorphosis of my personality was in part due to a lack of things to do. Since I was unable to work due to the lack of power, these tasks became my new work.  My goal for the day—get gas-check.  Need warm beverages and food-check.  Necessity and survival allow people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

The stages of grief—(denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) were all the stages we went through with sss.  It was strange when acceptance occurred—all the energy used to fight the difficult feelings went away.  It just was a situation that would eventually have an end,  And it did.  One month later we are all changed in some way by this storm.  As 2012 comes to an end for us northern NJ people, we will think about our pain and hopefully be grateful that it’s over.  In the other local areas, it will be a long time until their nightmare ends.

I usually associate many memories with music. Many of these songs are storm related, so it will take a while before people hear the following songs in quite the same way:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgFHM8HMbWQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-WMbP1RcC4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI2COawqMJQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTBv4kAdk_w

 

This one, however, captures my exact feelings and is the one I’ll hold onto for a long time:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gDhR1R3S0s

Hope all of you have recovered from the storm.  Please share your storm experiences.

 

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