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  • Writer's picture Zalman Nelson - Therapist

Therapy Tips: Trying to Change But It's Not Working

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

therapy tips trying to change

Q: I tried so many things, books, techniques, and approaches to change but it’s not working. Why?

A: Anytime in life that we decide to get somewhere or achieve something, we pick a way to do it, implement it, and then see what happens. It should get us there. And if it doesn’t? There must be something else going on; some other feature at play we have to address in our plan.

An Analogy for Change

If Highway 41 leads you to the city you want to go but no matter how much you drive, you don’t get there…something else is up: construction, change on the map, etc. In other words, there's another factor I didn’t address in my original plan that’s interfering. If I want to get there, I need a new or adjusted plan that takes this new factor into account.

Personal growth and change are the same things. I want to work on being less pleasing, having more self-esteem and confidence, speaking up more, expressing myself, having healthy boundaries, practicing self-care, starting a new hobby, and getting going on my exercise plan. But something keeps getting in the way.

How do I know? Because my plan is not getting me to the goal. Otherwise, I'd be there already.

Life Patterns and Change

Our Life Patterns work the same way. So many great self-help books, courses, teachers, seminars, ideas, and videos out there. And we try them because we want to reach our goals. We buy and sign up, get to work, day in and day out try – but we’re not moving.

Or, we take some steps forward only to slip back. It can feel like revving the engine in neutral. And it’s crazy frustrating: so much effort and energy invested in such a worthy goal that holds so much promise for change and happiness. But no matter how hard we work and strive toward that goal, it seems out of reach, slipping through our grasp.

Why? The Patterns. They are mighty foes, difficult opponents, and major challenges. Let’s see what we’re up against because it’s certainly challenging – but doable. Know your enemy.

Life Patterns are Lifelong

Life Patterns are lifelong patterns and themes we all have. They’ve been with us forever, starting in childhood, picked up as kids, and not our fault. And then they keep repeating throughout our lives to this very day. Here and now, as adults in the present moment, they subconsciously push us to recreate the same conditions we encountered in childhood; many of which were very harmful to us.

Life Patterns are Self-Destructive

The Life Patterns are self-destructive. They push us to be drawn into situations, interactions, and relationships that trigger those same Life Patterns. And they damage our sense of self, our health, our relationships with others, our work, our happiness, and our moods. Every aspect of our lives is touched and infected by them.

Life Patterns are Resistant

Life Patterns are resistant buggers. They struggle for survival, dig in deep, and fight change. We feel a strong push to maintain them. Seeing ourselves, life, others, and relationships through the eyes of the Patters is what we know. Although it is painful, my Pattern is comfortable and familiar.

Moreover, we feel some loyalty to them. In the early stages of our lives, the Life Patterns helped us, saved us, and enabled us to survive childhood. They were good, appropriate, and effective adaptations to the family we grew up in. But that was when we were kids. The problem is that we continue to do them now even when they no longer serve a useful purpose.

This is why it’s very difficult to change. It's why the methods we choose to grow and change often fail to produce results or lasting change. But now we know what we’re up against. I'M NOT: bad, broken, no good, worthless, incapable. MY PATTERN IS THE PROBLEM, NOT ME. It covers up the real me, dominates the inner dialogue in my mind, and suppresses the true, authentic, real me underneath, that longs to come out and be and express and suggest thoughts to think and words to say and actions to take.

The Pattern-me is sad, anxious, fearful, worried, shortsighted, selfish, close-minded, alone, abandoned, and neglected. When I wear its glasses and look at myself, others, and life, things are bleak and hopeless. But the Authentic-me underneath is the very opposite, longs to go free and express itself, and is excited for the hope and promise of a path that will work. It's trusting and confident, happy and open, solid and valid and worthy and lovable and wanted, and excited to take on life.

Let’s readjust our plan for growth to account for this factor: Life Patterns. And then our path will get us to the goal we long for and crave, deserve, and want so bad we can taste it. When you're ready to do the work and invest the effort in your growth, you deserve a path that can help you get there and make lasting change.

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