Have you ever had the experience of trying desperately to change something, or someone, and the harder you try, the worse it seems to get? Life is full of paradoxes, and this paradox can be one of the most frustrating of all. Maybe you're trying to change your partner's mind about something. Just when you think you have come up with the most rational argument possible, that you're really going to change their mind this time, the more they push back. Maybe you find this happens with yourself as well when you're trying to change something in you. You try and try to build new habits and change routines, and yet see yourself falling back further and further in to old patterns. It's like being trapped in quicksand. The more you fight, the deeper you sink.
So wait a minute Dan. Are you about to tell me that I should just stop trying? That I should just accept my fate? Well...yes...and no. Paradox. You see, what I've noticed in my work, in my personal life, and what much psychological research bares out, is that with some things, the harder we try to change them, the worse it gets. Try not thinking about a white bear for a minute. Really try. Keep going. How are you doing? Is that white bear gone yet? Didn't think so (Interestingly enough, it's not just in the moment, but later on, you're going to be more likely to randomly think of a white bear than someone who has not tried hard to push it away). So, where does that leave us then? Don't try to change? Accept, give up? Fortunately there's another alternative.
One reason this pushing forward and pushing harder doesn't always work, is because although one part of you may want these things, you are often neglecting another part that doesn't want to change. There are often really good reasons these other parts don't want to change. For example, you might think, I'm going to try to be more optimistic this year, really going to try to see the good in things. But then another part of you says, "well wait a minute, hold on, if I start to be optimistic, and then something bad happens, I'm just going to fall further, and get more hurt. Screw it, pessimism is the way to go!" Or maybe you want to be a better partner, be more loving, pay more attention, but another part of you is incredibly afraid of hurt, abandonment, rejection, and the thought of getting close terrifies this part.
There are countless situations like this, and so if we try to simply have one part of us push, without understanding the reasons the other part doesn't want to move forward, this part is inevitably going to shout at us to stop and keep us in old patterns. So instead of pushing forward, instead of giving up, perhaps try seeking to understand, and accept each part of you, and why that part does what it does for you. The more you understand, the more you can offer these different aspects of yourself compassion, the more they might actually be willing to change, and perhaps get on board with the decision in a harmonious way, rather than be forced in to something they don't want to do.