People who come to long-term therapy want to change. They’re becoming more aware of what isn’t working for them in their lives. They want to introduce new ways of behaving and being in the world. Most importantly, they want to stop feeling the horrible stuff they’re feeling now.
They want a quick fix, a magic wand or potion, that will transport them from the stuckness of now to the freedom of the life they want.
Except that change doesn’t happen overnight. Hard to digest, maybe. But change isn’t ingested in a red or blue pill. Change isn’t about waking up one morning and deciding to be different. Change happens in those tiny moments of life when we decide to respond in a new way. How?
Science says that neural pathways in our brain take at least 45 days to learn new ways of doing things. It can feel hellish in those first 44 days before the new pathway is firmed up and confident.
We can try out new behaviours and ways of responding to people.
What if you’ve spent your whole life arguing your point and putting the other person to rights? Accepting the other person’s point of view will be hard, if not impossible, the first few times. But your friendships may benefit as a result of you not trying to prove your point all the time
What if you end up dealing with tricky customers on the phone who want to annihilate you? Standing up to them can be incredibly difficult, but testing out a new way of responding to them – one call at a time – can help build the resilience you need to feel more confident in your role.
And what if you need to deal with family members in a different way? If you’re tired of being ‘less than’ and put down and demeaned – what then? Standing up for yourself can take a long time to master, which involves stating what you want, and perhaps need, in a plausible, assertive way each time.
The clue is in the ‘each time’. Situations may come along that test your skills in asserting yourself. Try them out again. You may want to change the way you are with your partner – less combative, more loving, maybe. Yet the old patterns drag you back to your old ways of being.
Instead of looking at those old patterns as an enemy, regard them as a meter for showing how far you’ve come. Those old ways of being served you at one point. You’re outgrowing them, but only one step – and one moment – at a time.
2 thoughts on “Why change has to happen one moment at a time”
you get it….you said it so clearly….be like a plant….take time…thanks for the 45 days heads up….gosh….but very useful…..so where does the 21day change process fit in with this?
Thanks for stopping by to comment. As for how long it takes for change to take root, I think it depends on the will/intention of the person to make the change. I believe in ‘fake it ’til you make it’. How long it takes til you make it depends on you. The important thing is to keep making changes in the moment, and not beating yourself up when you slip or ‘relapse’. That slip can just be a way of making the transformation even stronger.