“I know I need to lose weight, but I can’t bring myself to go to the gym.”
“I know smoking is bad for me, yet I continue to smoke.”
“I think I understand why I get so angry, but I can’t stop myself from letting the little things bother me.”
The following examples are a fraction of the myriad thoughts people have on a daily basis, yet the underlying fact preventing people from making good choices and altering their behavior in a positive way is quite simple: change is difficult.
As very small children, we learn all kinds of things without even knowing that we’re learning them. We learn what we like and don’t like, what we’re supposed to do and what not to do; what’s good, what’s bad; what’s scary and what’s safe.
We learn so much innocently because we’re just children; we learn how to act accordingly and develop an entire set of behaviors. It’s mostly automatic. The old adage that children are sponges is true. We absorb what is presented to us as children and then act out those behaviors accordingly.
The problem occurs when we become older and find that we still react in ways we learned as children. We might be scared of something even though we know, logically, that something isn’t scary. We find ourselves angry at things we know, intellectually, shouldn’t make us upset. We act in ways we know aren’t good for us, yet we keep repeating them. Here we are, scared, angry and destructive. But how do we change these patterns?
If things become bad enough, debilitating or inhibiting our ability to be happy, we might seek help, such as psychotherapy.
Does psychotherapy help?
Most people think of psychotherapy as a way to gain understanding of how we got to be the way we are. That is a component of its ultimate goal, but understanding our motivations — why we do the things we do — doesn’t help much if we want to change. Understanding can be interesting, but changing means getting out of our comfort zone.
Psychotherapy only helps if the therapist walks with us through the discomfort that comes when we take steps to change. Eventually this discomfort eases up as the changes become more part of us. With time, persistence, and good therapy, we really can change those childhood patterns for good.