Do you want to know why change is so hard? It is because we avoid discomfort and pain like it is fatal. Brave men and women will run into burning buildings to protect strangers, but will flee from conflict with the ones that they love the most. I do it. You do it. We are all vulnerable to this emotional self-protection. In my therapy process there is a saying that "sometimes it feels worse before it starts to feel better." This is often a challenging thought because people come to therapy because the relationship, the depression, the anxiety has become unbearable and they are seeking change now. The first step to change is to realize that facing these unbearable circumstances is the key to freedom, joy, and reconciliation.
Victor Hugo says, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” The imagery is that no matter the circumstances that you are facing, the situation will turn around, the pain will ease, and the conflict will subside. It is not about passively waiting around for things to change. The power is in standing tall in the dark night, facing the East, and believing that the sun will indeed rise again. The power is in the posture.
Posture is how we position ourselves emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally. It is waiting with the eager anticipation that things will change if we can remain engaged with our feelings and needs. Instead of waiting FOR hope and joy, we anticipate that this challenge is PRODUCING hope and joy. This is a shift in our thought process from “what is wrong,” which is often paralyzing, to “what do we want,” which gives us vision. Vision produces hope, motivation, and new behaviors. For instance, do we want to start feeling connected and safe in our relationship? It is time to stop thinking about what is wrong in the relationship and envision what we want in the relationship.
Realistically, this may look like taking the posture of vulnerability with your spouse even though you know that the response may be defensive. This may be the posture of challenging that thought of self-condemnation even though you don't really believe the truth yet. This may be the posture of speaking up and saying "ouch" even though you know that it may start a difficult conversation. It is only in our encounter with our discomfort and pain that we have the courage to take the difficult first steps to change. In fact, this is a change. Instead of avoiding the uncomfortable, we are staying emotionally engaged and ready to try out new solutions.
So, do you want to find the courage for change? Start with examining your posture in difficult circumstances. Start envisioning what you want to change and find out what a posture of change looks like for you. Enlist the support of your partner, friends, or therapist to be encouraged and stay safe. Share your vision with them. If you would like help in your journey to change, then please contact me at www.nathanaelreadmft.com or (530) 953-9363.
Nathanael Read, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, practicing in Redding, CA. He currently specializes in marriage therapy and couples counseling, working with couples in conflict or distress, and individual counseling for those affected by depression, anxiety, and trauma. His passion is to help clients DISCOVER HOPE in their lives. Contact Nathanael with questions or to set up your FREE 15 minute Consultation to learn how you may benefit from therapy today.