Most people come to therapy because they are unhappy. They want change and they want to feel better about life.
We get stuck when we fixate on wanting life to change in order to make us feel happier. So we decide on what needs to happen in order for us to feel ok. We can recognise we are doing this by looking out for whens and thens.
· When I lose weight then I’ll feel confident enough to have a relationship.
· When he starts helping around the house then my marriage can improve.
· When I get that promotion then I can take time out to relax.
The problem with whens and thens is you put yourself at the mercy of your circumstance. The issue becomes something outside of you. This is frustrating and disempowering in equal measure because you are trying to control things, which have other influences acting upon them. This is most fruitless when we feel like we need people to start/stop behaving in a certain way so we can feel better.
By expecting things to change so we can feel a certain way can set you up for disappointment and, even if we get our whens, quite often the thens don’t quite fulfil their promises. I’ve seen people reach their goal weight and wonder why they don’t feel amazingly body confident and others work hard for that promotion only to have their workloads double and their eyes wandering to the next rung on the ladder.
If you accept what is first, then change can happen from a more inspired place. The desire to grow and be happy faces less resistance when we don’t hate what is. Therapy cannot change your circumstances but it can help transform your inner experience of your external circumstances. Over and over again I see that when people change their inner world, their outer world starts to shift anyway.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
I’m not saying you shouldn’t take action to make changes in your life, this isn’t about being passive and disengaged but ask yourself, are you placing hope that life can only be good when some big change has occurred? Is your unhappiness being attributed to things beyond your control? Are you placing a bit fat then after your when?