CHANGE: ESCAPE THE SPIDERS WEB

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I was recently at a monthly discussion group I attend in London that debates ideas about personal development and wellbeing. Naturally, I always have a amazing time!

At the most recent meeting, the topic was 'Change', how does it occur and what are the challenges we face to bring it about. We discussed a well-known model for the process of change by psychologists Prochaska & DiClemente that consists of 5 quite clear stages.

Pre-Contemplation

This is the stage in which you are unaware of a behaviour or lifestyle that may need to change.

Contemplation

You become aware of a required change and start to contemplate ways in which you can go about this. This may involve having to explore ways in which to understand it, and this may involve some struggle.

Preparation

This is when you make a clear plan for change and how you are going to do it.

Action

You've made your decision and take action. This is the busiest time and the most uncomfortable, not just for yourself, getting used to new habits, but for those around you who may react strangely to your new choices.

Maintenance

The discomfort of change can be tiring and anxiety-inducing, on top of the everyday challenges and temptations that come and go, that this can make maintaining the change very difficult. It may sometimes seem easier just relapse back into the old habit where you were comfortable and sacrificing the positive impact that the change may have brought.

You can read more about the Stages of Change theory here.

While the discussion centred around the challenges of each of the stages I found there what was lacking was the acknowledgement that actually change is far from a solo endeavour. It really does rely on having the support of those around you and being in an environment where the change is facilitated and allowed to happen.

In fact, part of me is not really sure that the word 'change' is even the right word. It is more about expanding your life spectrum and investing time in a new and unexplored area. I say this because in my life journey, despite the changes I have gone through, the old me that may have manifested negative experiences still lives on in my conscience, ready and waiting to be given life again. This is something that I believe should be acknowledged and embraced, safely, without giving it too much oxygen to take back control.

I believe it is important to engage with that old voice in your head when it wants attention. When it's power and temptation becomes overwhelming, it is good to stop, be still, and listen to it, and rationalise why now it is growing in volume.

When giving myself the space to calmly acknowledge that voice, maybe through a meditation, this is the sort of thing that I might say internally:

'Thanks for what you have to say. I'm listening. Yes, that person was comfortable and easy to be and is a part of who I am, but it did not serve my higher purpose. I'm really sorry, I know why you were the way you were and I still love you, but I have to be this other person now. I will always be here to talk when you need me to'.

It can be quite an emotional experience because it almost feels like you are shutting out a part of yourself, but when you do it with kindness and compassion, that voice will quieten down, it will surrender and let you be.

Sometimes this is a process that can be done with a therapist, where they take you into a place of relaxation and actually get you to voice what you would say to that old self to help you gently let go. Sometimes you can process the inner conflict with a friend who you trust and who supports the new you. Sometimes in the case of addictions it is through group therapy.

And of course, depending on the situation, this is something you can also process with a Life Coach, who sees you in your highest light and wants you to succeed in your goal.

So, change can be an intense and holistic process and involves identifying the various aspects of your life that are keeping you from moving on. It is like trying to escape from a spiders web. You can detach as much as possible, but if even one part of the sticky web is still attached, then like the spider, the old you will be able to track you down and drag you back into the sticky prison. Once free however, there are many more spiders out there to catch you in their web, so stay vigilant. Stay mindful.

Take care for now.

Oliver

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