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Maybe We Don't Want to Get Better

I was talking to my therapist the other day about a behaviour I want to learn to manage and change. I want to find a healthier and more effective way of asking for that need to be met. She then talked about potential objections to bettering this behaviour despite the fact that changing the behaviour would ultimately lead to me feeling better.

There are times we may not even realize it but we do not entirely want to change and feel better. Something is holding us back. There are several reasons this could be happening and awareness is the first step to overcoming these objections. It is up to us to reflect and figure out what is holding us back.

Here are some examples of reasons we might object to changing and feeling better:

1) The behaviour is adaptive:

Sometimes we have behaviours that are learned, that stem from the fact that they were useful at one point. For example, if you once had a partner who belittled and invalidated you, you might have learned not to share your feelings for fear of having them hurt. If you now have a partner who is empathetic and supportive, you might still struggle to express your feelings. The behaviour you learned of shutting down and not speaking up was useful once, it protected you. But it no longer serves a purpose and it would be healthier to let it go.

2) Trauma:

Some behaviours are trauma responses and evolved due to something we experienced and an instinct for survival. Maybe you grew up in an abusive home. Now when someone shouts or gets aggressive, you shut down or run away. That behaviour evolved in order to protect yourself, it makes sense. However, it’s no longer needed in every situation of your life.

3) We feel undeserving:

Sometimes we fall into behavioural patterns because we feel like the feelings that come with them are what we deserve. We feel like distress and difficult feelings are the norm for us and we seem to think this is as good as it gets. We need to believe that we are deserving of love, joy, respect so that we can change the behaviours that prevent us from experiencing those feelings.

4) Familiarity:

It can also be that the dark or difficult feelings are so familiar. For example, depression is especially hard to manage for me. The darkness and the emotional distress are familiar and I know exactly what to expect. I know how it works, how it affects me and exactly how my days will keep rolling out if I sink into the depression and do nothing. Making a change brings on uncertainty and takes us out of our comfort zone.

5) Fear of failure:

Sometimes the thought of the energy and commitment required to feel better stops us from even trying. We feel like it’s not worth the disappointment if we attempt a change and see no results. The fear of failure keeps us in our unhealthy and ineffective patterns and it seems easier to stay where we are. Trying to feel better is always worth it. If it doesn’t work, we learn from it and we adjust.

I thought about what my therapist said, about objections to feeling better, to changing, to growing. All of these are valid reasons. And they make sense. But we need to learn to overcome them. When someone is resistant to changing their behaviours or seeking support, we sometimes think they lack maturity or self-awareness. There are however many reasons someone might be hesitant to make a change. It takes a lot of reflection to determine where our patterns come from, but understanding this can help us change them. What holds you in your patterns? What purpose do they serve in your life and are they still useful or appropriate?

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