The Paradoxical Theory of Change

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.             ~ Carl Rogers

Try that quote on for size and see how it fits for you. Does this seem right? How can this be? What does he mean by “accept?” How can I accept my shortcomings, dysfunctions, etc.? If I accept them, then why change? But I want to change!!

Most people go to a therapist to feel better or solve a problem or get “fixed,” so to speak. They know, going in, that this will involve some kind of change. Amazingly, these people suffer because they don’t allow themselves to just plain be who they are and be content with that for a while.

A great deal of our culture seems to work against this. Madison Avenue won’t hear of it! Dare I implicate various religious practices and other cultural traditions as well? With very little effort, most people can call to mind dozens (hundreds?) of “shoulds” that they learned as they grew into adulthood. How many shoulds can you name? Which are your favorites? Least favorites?

In a sense, the first big change one makes in therapy is to unlearn how to be someone other than one’s self! This may sound simple, but it’s incredibly hard, if you think about it. So many shoulds, so little time! And so ingrained in us!

Once you get back to being you, you have a foothold, a place to stand, from which to move in a desired direction. Or you may decide that being you is good enough. You don’t know until you try it, do you?

What do you think of this idea? It seems to go against the grain of many therapy approaches and conceptions of what a therapist is. Would you prefer to have a therapist tell you how to be? Or would you be OK with a therapist who was just fine with who you are right now? Think on this and let me know.

Copyright 2014 Daniel J. Metevier

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