Once upon a time I did not believe people could change, at least not really. That was primarily thought of within the context of a relationship. How many of us have entered a relationship with someone and thought there were certain things we didn’t like about them, but maybe could change them? Probably all of us, even if such thoughts were not conscious.
Trying to change someone, even wanting to change someone, is a recipe for frustration, broken relationships, and sorrow. It is not a nice path to be on. It renders judgement against the partner; it somehow positions the self above the other (an existential sin); and by its very nature is harmful to both parties. And yet, we may all try. Blessings to those who have not or do not.
So, when confronted with an external force, the self digs in deeper and finds roots, and becomes even more like the trait the external force is changing. That serves no one. We become set in our ways. And that too, is a tragedy, because not changing, refusing to change, leads to stagnation. Perhaps the ways the other person is trying to change us are actually good for us, would help us grow. But because of our relationship, we can either not see it, or cannot accept it because of who it is and what it would mean to accept it.
How do you get around this? How do you know what kind of change and personal growth is good for you? How do you know that the type of change you are being guided towards is beneficial, delivered to you without agenda?
Self-awareness. Awareness of the impact we have on those around us, both good and bad. Knowing both who we are and who we want to be, and accepting this path, is the first step.
When others try to change us, defeat often follows, for all parties involved. But what about the self? When the self knows and wants to change, can it be done? Can we not look at ourselves dispassionately and see aspects of our selves that are simply not working, or are simply not as we know we could make them? In other words, can we even see? Self-knowledge is often the hardest to come by, because we cannot hide from our own ugliness and we often discount our own beauty. How many of us look at ourselves and dislike what we see? It surely happens to everyone, at least at times.
Self-awareness has to be the starting and ending point. If we know ourselves, and also know who we wish to be, then with the right conditions and hunger for change, we can grow.
A desire to improve and a willingness to do the hard work associated has to be the starting point.
Enter the therapist. Although friends and loved ones are more than capable of both giving good advice and helping us through a change process, it is not always fair to expect or ask of them this kind of support. There may also be bias or an agenda, and the merest thought that such might exist, could derail what is only a well-meant endeavour. The advantage of a therapist should be that they are: professionally trained, experienced, without agenda, and uniquely detached.
This is not meant to be a paean to therapists, coaches, or in my case also, a Dominatrix. Though a casual flip through the pages of this blog would show not only the specifics of how these people are working with me, but also how grateful I am for their guidance, and also how fundamental it is. You can read some of the highlights in these posts:
- How submission is a force to change my life
- Is there a such thing as too much navel gazing?
- What therapy and BDSM have in common
- What happens when the occult gets real?
What this post is meant to be about was the casual observation I felt yesterday that I am changing. That all of this work is making me examine who and how I am and I am realising that I am at least two people. That may seem ridiculous, and I don’t mean this from a clinical standpoint—I know that there are clinical diagnoses of people who are bi-polar, people who have multiple personalities, or are schizophrenic. This is not about that, nor is it in any way intended to diminish the importance or significance of those conditions. It is rather that I am finding that who and how I am is different depending on the context (people, place, situation) that I am in. That I am showing different parts of me to different people, that I am behaving differently with different people. And perhaps so far, so normal. But what strikes me is that in one situation I really love the person I am and in another I find aspects of my affect distasteful.
And my question is this. When we try to change ourselves, is the “old” context part of what holds us back because certain people and certain situations trigger old patterns? Or is it that we are unable to achieve escape velocity from the expectations of others because we are caught in the gravitational pull of how we were in those ways in our past? Can we ever really say to someone, “I am not the same person you knew,” and really mean it? Can such change be possible?
I always thought that the hardest part of change was related to the self. But now I am finding that the hardest part of change is not the self, but how the self is with the people and places that represent the old patterns. Can we change so much that even these people, these contexts, recognise us as a new and better version of ourselves—the person we were striving to become in the first place?
I don’t know, but I sure hope so.