In the last over 20 years as a therapist, I struggled with the idea of change.
Can we change a person?
From Gottman’s research, 69% of the issues in the couple relationship are never resolved because these are the perpetual issue and unresolvable because these problems are either fundamental differences of your personality or fundamental differences of your lifestyle needs. So, the Gottmans’ couple’s counseling teaches the couple how to compromise the differences instead of trying to change the other person.
We all know that personality is generally pretty stable even though the recent studies have shown that personality does change over time for the better (but a slow and gradual process). One of the main reasons the personality change happens when a person chooses to do so to live a meaningful and successful life. So, if no choice is made and no action is taken, a person’s personality can stay the same or change slow and gradually throughout the years.
So, the bottom line is: if you want the change, you are the one who has to make up your mind and to take action.
Why am I struggling with the idea of change? As a therapist, I have to believe that people can change. Otherwise, what’s the point of psychotherapy if a person will feel miserable for the rest of his/her life because of his/her personality? Also, what can “I,” as a therapist, do, to facilitate the change? Or, in another word, based on the research result, how can I assist a person’s motivation to change?
When I was a young therapist, I thought that I could “help the change.” As I became much more experienced, I gradually realized that I could only accompany the change when a person decided to do so.
The implication of this realization is many “powerless” feelings when clients stuck in the same patterns over and over again but not taking action to make the necessary change.
It got me to think about the question: why don’t we take action to make changes even when we stuck in the miserable place?
(Continue reading: Change is hard — why?)