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When people seek help for an emotional or mental disorder, they often see the benefits of changing the way they think. They are willing to do things differently and can then reap the benefits of hard work. However, permanent change doesn’t come from the short-term effort, but from ongoing awareness and change.

Just because you know something doesn’t mean you are implementing the knowledge. Let’s say you go to therapy to learn how to change your thinking. For example, you’ve been afraid to try new things. Without your realization, your mind has told you something bad might happen if you make the change – you can’t do better, you might lose more, you’ll cause a conflict, etc.

This type of negative thinking has become a bad habit, and it has kept you trapped in an unwanted situation filled with emotional strife. But now, in therapy, you have become aware that you have been under the spell of self-defeating thoughts, and you decide to take control. You begin to notice how your mind has told you things that may not be true. You see the negative thoughts and choose to no longer be under their control. You face your fears. You realize you don’t know what will happen if you make the change, but you’re not going to be under the spell of imaginary nightmares any longer.

Let’s take another example.

Let’s say you’ve avoided telling someone how you feel because you’re afraid of a confrontation. Consequently, you feel like a ticking time bomb ready to ignite. This only further fuels your fear. But now that you’re aware that your fear of confrontation has immobilized you, you can develop a strategy to change your thinking.

First, you decide you’re no longer willing to be disabled by your thoughts. You don’t have a crystal ball, and you don’t know the future.

Second, you commit to addressing the problem with kindness and strength, regardless of your discomfort. You do not attack. You could say something like, “I’m not comfortable with _____________, I’d like to find a mutually beneficial way to handle this,” or “I feel pressured right now and need to think about this,” or “I’m not happy with this arrangement, I’d like to find a way that makes us both feel good about this situation.” It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about creating a workable solution.

Third, keep realistic expectations. In a genuinely caring relationship (business or personal), people will do their best to accommodate one another. If someone’s behavior is hurting the other, they will attempt to modify it. But you can’t expect someone to bend in an unrealistic direction, and you can’t expect someone to change who is incapable of empathy.

Fourth, if you’ve been fair in your assessment, you’ve stated your feelings, and nothing changes, you will need to be the one to make the changes. Expecting things to be different when the evidence repeatedly presents itself otherwise is not reality. If you are unhappy about a situation, you can modify your own behavior rather than expecting someone else to do what they cannot or will not do.

You are ultimately responsible for your own happiness. Often, our wants and wishes comes from the expectations that other people should read our minds or be what we want them to be. This never works.

This brings us to the fifth point. Real change takes time and practice. Just because you take a step through your fears once or twice doesn’t mean you won’t slip back into your old ways. Instead, you must remain aware of your thoughts and continue to walk through them and past them into a better way of living.

Your mind is like a muscle, a once or twice workout is good, but a complete makeover requires a continuous push out of your comfort zone. Changing your thought processes a couple of times doesn’t mean the dominating thoughts will simply go away. Instead, you must practice change until it becomes an entirely new habit. In the words of the 6th century, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu “He who conquers others is strong, he who conquers himself is mighty.”

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Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.

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