Making Changes in The Way You Think

If you only read self-help books or articles by many pop-psychologists, you would likely believe that changing how you think, feel, and behave is a relatively easy process once you decide to do so. Many people write in such a way that leads you to believe it should be as easy as deciding to change and instant change occurs. Deciding to change is only the first of many steps toward the attainment of lasting and permanent change. It will require a commitment of your time and effort to reach your desired goal.

The first thing you must understand is that most of your thoughts and behaviors are not done in a conscious manner. They are mostly automatic and are habits you have developed over time. We all have a set of beliefs that determine how we see things and, therefore, determine what we think and what we do. This ultimately determines how we feel. In making the changes that will ultimately improve our mood, self-esteem, and our lives we are changing habits. Habits take time and effort to change.

We all have this conversation going on in our heads (self talk) that determines our reactions to events. I suggest that you start a journal and write about how you experience life. This will help you to identify faulty or distorted thinking that negatively affects your life. The next step is to explore alternative thoughts and behaviors to replace those that do not work. Having someone to share your thoughts and feelings with as well as exploring alternatives is extremely helpful. The support and encouragement from a trusted relative, friend, or counselor increases the likelihood of a successful outcome.

I will continue to discuss the process for change in my next post.

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Vulnerability

A few weeks ago I facilitated a discussion about vulnerability. The discussion was about why it is important to a relationship that both people are willing and able to be emotionally vulnerable. The other important part of the discussion was how one allows oneself to be vulnerable a partner. Many of us have suffered significant emotional pain from past relationships as well as childhood issues that linger into adulthood. We can find it nearly impossible to open up to another person and allow ourselves to let anyone close enough to us to cause us additional emotional pain. Many of us have a strong desire to have a close connection to another person. But, our fears inhibit us from realizing this desire. Too many times people jump from one relationship to another in order to avoid the emotional pain of a break-up. Allow yourself the time to go through the grieving process and to heal before you attempt to engage in another intimate relationship. This is the first step toward making ourselves available for an emotionally healthy relationship.

Building trust is an absolute requirement for vulnerability to be present in a relationship. In order to build trust there must be honest and open communication. We need to reveal to our partner who we are and what is important to us. We need to be honest about our thoughts and feelings. We must also be forthcoming and responsible for our actions even if there is the risk of conflict. Part of a healthy relationship is dealing with conflict and finding ways to resolve it. Most of us fear being judged and rejected. For a person to truly love us they need to know and accept us for who we are not some façade that we project.

Before getting involved in a relationship, work on the issues that have caused problems in previous relationship. Get some counseling if needed. Face your past in order to overcome it. Give yourself to time to grieve and get to know yourself again. We tend to lose ourselves in the “we” of a relationship (especially the long term relationship). Practice the skills of open and honest communication and take emotional risks. This is the way to find the type of relationships we desire.