Are You Looking For Change?

Welcome to Talk Therapy and thank you for visiting!  You know, I will never forget the reactions I received from others when I first told them that I wanted to be a therapist. Hands down, the most common question asked of me was, “But do you really think people can change?”  Before I share my response with you, I’d like to ask you to sit with that question for just a minute…Do you really think people can change?  

After all, the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”  and if there is a saying…well then it must be true, right?  Let me ask you another question…Is it possible for people to not change?

I find this a far more interesting discussion to have, and I’m reminded of another saying that “the only constant thing in this world is change” –Heraclitus.  The philosophical side of me loves the acceptance of the inevitability and nature of change.  If you are anything like me, then you probably know what it feels like to get so focused on one particular aspect of your life that you would like to see “change” in a very specific way, that you lose sight of the small but constant changes taking place all around you…even within you.  When we do this, we limit our possibilities, our awareness, our options, our flexibility, our creativity, and all too often…our hope.  And hope was my answer to their question, “I have hope.”

Image by Rob BarberImage by Rob Barber, Creative Commons License

As I sat in the classroom my first semester of Graduate School, I was reminded of the question, “Do you really think people can change?”.  The professor was discussing Neuroplasticity, which refers to the impressive flexibility of the brain as it undergoes countless changes throughout our lifespan, and I experienced it again…hope.  

Now, the scientific side of me loves when evidence can support my philosophical side, a meeting of the minds so to speak. The brain, not unlike any other muscle being exercised can be shaped, molded, and strengthened.  Neural pathways that have been created and used over and over again like a well worn path grooved into the brain can create new patterns when practiced.  

In Dan Siegel’s book, Mindsight, he states that these “new mental skills can be acquired with intentional effort, with focused awareness and concentration”, and enhanced through aerobic exercise, novelty, and emotional arousal. As we engage in physical activity which clears our mind and promotes learning, open ourselves up to new experiences, and participate in meaningful activities, we create and strengthen new connections. It would seem that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks!  

So why does this bring me hope?  How does this inform my work as a therapist?  It reminds me that one’s past experiences and where their story begins does not dictate the next chapter of their life.

My challenge for you is to ask yourself not what is the same…but what is Different!  How do you experience this novelty?  What meaning does it hold for you?

May tomorrow’s changes bring you peace, love, and happiness…but most of all…may they bring you hope!


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