The difficoulty of change

We know that changes of any kind are never easy. Personal changes are even harder to manage for us all because inner conflicts, however discomforting, have predictable results. They may serve us to some degree, even if they are less than optimal outcomes. When in counselling or psychotherapy changes are not happening as expected we often think of "failed treatment", or the therapy as "not helpful" enough, or that the therapist was not the "right one". The therapist as an outsider empathizes with the clients' complaints concerning any negative feelings towards their self-expectations and aims, or their relationship with others. In exploring options for change, empathic engagement often doesn't seem enough. The contemporary views on developmental issues; and particularly early trauma and emotional deprivation, has led therapists feeling responsible for the failure of their efforts on behalf of clients. This view may miss considering the patient's contribution to the impasse out of his/her thinking. It is puzzling to imagine that someone may wish to oppose the therapist's best intentions. However, it may be that opposition is not necessarily sheer obstinacy, but one or the combination of unconscious fears and anxieties.

•THE ANXIETY OF SUBMISSION: People seek counselling because they feel that something painfully problematic in their lives is not working, and they want it fixed. Anxious lovers keep asking their partner for reassurance but, don’t want to figure out the reasons for the anxiety. What they want is discovering efficient ways for prodding their lover to reassure them. A first step to therapy may be wanting to change, but there is a fear to be changed, by the therapist. However well meaning it seems the therapist's influence it is firmly resisted, and independence is protected. We all resent to submit to the power of another as highly risky and a begrudged position.
Clients that resist change often become quite collaborative once the therapist stops trying so hard to help. Therapeutic success also depends on the recognition of the client’s desire to collaborate as well as on the analyst’s good intentions.
• THE ANXIETY OF REJECTION: A common social anxiety is the fear of expulsion from the social group, being outcast from family or community against a powerful influence into submission and conformity. The further one moves away by individual pursuits the more worried about exclusion he or she becomes. When afraid of being unloved or rejected, being distant or disinterested towards others can feel like a comforting compromise. Moving away can seem a reliable option, while avoiding close examination opposite a wish to persevere in maintaining closeness with the family, group or individuals.
•THE ANXIETY OF MOVING-ON: Some inner conflicts are systems for stopping time but remain vulnerable and forever anxious. Growing up, has its fair disadvantages. Stopping to an earlier time, within the security of the familiar, even a neurotic child can find some hope for reassurance and resolution. Leaving behind one’s childhood experiences for good, may imply giving up the hope for retribution or satisfaction. The emotional scars of one’s unhappy childhood can be at the same time a powerful denunciation that is hard to surrender and also a lament for rightful reparations. Often after a therapeutic progress, in my work with clients, an individual would noticeably begin to speculate about aging, growth and change, or dream about time fleeting and development.

What can be done or said that would promote change when we seem unable or unwilling to make any efforts? When we simply like to make things difficult, to make a mess? Perhaps we like the thrill of danger. We should not dismiss the very human impulse to blow it all up, to mess thing up, our life or relationships with passion perhaps addiction. A human desire that we would prefer not to confront: our pleasure for destructive rage.
We all have experienced people that, for better or for worse, have tried to influence us and we have often refused. However, why should we be so defiant in a self-development endeavor?
Counselling therapy may continue to be one of the most credible attempts for real growth. Psychotherapy effectiveness may have less to do with the application of recent practical theories, and more with the ability to respect the individual profound need to discover personal integrity even if by adamantly refusing the therapist’s best intentions.