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I Need Things to Change So I Can Get Better!

This is a common catch-cry among clients I counsel; in fact we all say it to some extent. Clients often want a variety of things to change: their husbands to give them more attention, wives to be more understanding, children to be more appreciative, people to get well, finances to improve, even people to die!

But the truth is we can’t change other people, we can really only change ourselves and our attitude to others or the situation we are in. And this is where a lot of people in therapy get stuck. They want other people to change. Sure, if that other person who was causing the problem changed, then things would definitely improve for us. But it doesn’t work that way and the sooner we “get” this fundamental fact, the happier our lives will be.

The quicker we accept this fact, the quicker we will get well in therapy too. Waiting around for others to change and for circumstances to improve is essentially the equivalent of sitting at life’s bus-stop, but the route has changed.

Anwar Sadat (1918-1981), the ex-president of Egypt was right on the money when he said: “If you don’t have the power to change yourself, then nothing will change around you.” The great scientist, Isaac Newton said the same thing too, albeit slanted towards the world of physics when he stated: “A body remains at rest or continues in a straight line at constant speed unless acted upon by a net force.” He might as well have been addressing a class of psychology students as a class of budding physicists and mathematicians. These laws apply universally.

Unless we change, nothing will change. Clients often say: “Why should I have to change – they are the one who have done the wrong thing!” And yes, this is true. Another person may have done the wrong thing, yet the irony is that, unless you change the way you interact with that person, or change your attitude to that person, then you will find yourself like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Nothing will change.

This is the most important concept that any client has to grasp in therapy. Until this fundamental rule of relationships, physics, mathematics, etc, is grasped and put into action, there can be no movement. Once it is accepted, there can be no stopping a person bent on changing their life!

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