Why We Don’t Change . . . Even When We REALLY Want To

woodpecker from Teri Ciacchi

You have heard yourself say it many times, this resolution to do better next time. Each time you fall down, you promise yourself and anyone else who will listen, that this is the last time. You know better now. You will not do it again.

But you do.

So why is it that so many of us work so hard to be the best and do the best we possibly can, only to fail over and over again?

Early in life, most of us experience the shaming which accompanies admonishments to “grow up” and “learn to control yourself.”  The innocent and spontaneous emotions which arise in us are dominated and silenced in an effort to control that which is inconvenient and unwieldy.

Ironically, the more we attempt to control what we feel and do, the less able we are to achieve the results we desire.  Like sand slipping between our fingers, the tighter our grip on what we desire, the less able we are to hold onto it. We may be accustomed to applying this time proven principle to our relationships and possessions but how often do we apply it to our quest for self-improvement and spiritual growth?  Employing too much self-will when relating to ourselves can be just as damaging as it is in our other relationships.

For instance, let’s say you want to control your temper. That seems like a worthwhile goal which most people would applaud. But did you know that “controlling your temper” can actually lead to more angry outbursts and unpredictable fluctuations in mood?

I like to joke that this is why treatment for anger problems  is termed “anger management,” not “anger repression” or “anger control.”  Repression and suppression of emotions actually perpetuate the feelings we are attempting to avoid. Rather than deal with those emotions and eventually move on, our attempts to control emotions tend to imprison us with our negative feelings indefinitely.

Not only does the energy of control exacerbate the very qualities it is intended to diminish, our efforts at control set into motion a cycle of shame which perpetuates our problem behaviors. As we fail to live up to our expectations and our resolutions , most of us will feel less and less confident. We may begin to doubt ourselves and this can lead to a deepened sense of shame. Contrary to some of the shaming techniques employed by parents, partners and the culture, shame does not evoke the positive changes we anticipate.

“You cannot shame or belittle people into changing. This means we can’t use self-hate to lose weight, we can’t shame ourselves into becoming better parents and we can’t belittle ourselves or our families into becoming who we need them to be. . . Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” [Brene’ Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me, page 197]

So exactly how do we make the positive changes we desire?

Ms. Brown goes on to explain “the power of connection and the dangers of disconnection. Disconnection is both the source and consequence of shame, fear and blame.” [p. 241] When we do not connect with ourselves empathically, we cannot achieve the change we crave. Ironically, it is when we stop blaming, judging and criticizing ourselves and others that the conditions required to effect real change can begin to take form.  Here are five steps to stop trying to “make” yourself do whatever it is you want yourself to do, and start nurturing the positive changes you want in your life.

How to Get What You Want by  Giving Up Control of Self and Others

1. Breathe and Connect to Your Feelings

2. Feel Empathy and Compassion for Yourself

3. Replace Negative Thoughts with Hopeful Scenarios

4. Extend Empathy to Others

5. Let Go of Control and Practice Acceptance

These steps can take you from the hell of repressed emotions, frustrated needs and projected blame and shame. When we insist upon controlling ourselves instead of accepting ourselves, we actually lose the control we seek to gain. It is only by accepting and loving ourselves unconditionally, that we can create the circumstances conducive to positive change.  Shame is a barrier to positive change. Shame is a barrier to compassion. Shame is a barrier to connection to self and with others.

Additionally, controlling behaviors act like barriers to our goals. It is very sad when I see someone invest so much energy and enthusiasm for the constructive change they desire, only to return to the same destructive patterns they are determined to escape. Resolution and positive thinking have their place but when it comes to thoroughly entrenched habits of thought or action, it is usually more productive to connect with ourselves with empathy and compassion and then let go. Letting go is the key to implementing any new skill set – even a motor skill such as tennis. Once we comprehend what needs to happen, once we have practiced the new behavior, what remains is to let go and allow our more intuitive side to guide us.

This may be one of the most difficult concepts to teach another. It runs counter to our training and our culture. Yet it is one of life’s ironies that we must surrender the very thing we wish to gain.


2 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Change . . . Even When We REALLY Want To

  1. Great article veronica. I seem to be going through a big change in my repressed emotions and frustrations to sex. I am amazed at just how many beautiful women aged 18-35 are high class courtesans and how many celebrity personalities on television movies etc are also highly paid courtesans on the side. I am feeling so much energy discomfort in my third chakra solar plexus region. This is has been caused by my feelings towards this beautiful 28 year old woman. I am married and she is in a relationship. This seems to create so much emotion in me. Also l have been looking at a courtesan site monalisamodels and been amazed to see just how much money a celebrity model is paid such as $600,000 for a month. Where do you get $600,000 to have this experience and what of your wife. I remember when l was 20-25 and attracting an absolutely beautiful girlfriend was very difficult and now to discover so many of these mist beautiful girls were highly paid courtesans anyway.

    It has been a shock to me to read that many women who l idolised and fantasised about when growing up were also highly paid courtesans on the side. I am still trying to process this one.

    Veronica how do you breathe into these feelings and any other insights you have would be appreciated.

    Love and light


    1. Dear Michael,

      Thank you for your message. I hear that you are coming out of denial about the sex industry. Well I wish more people would do the same. It is not only the oldest profession but a time honored one which has been an integral aspect to all cultures and all nation building since the beginning of civilization. We know this because of the ancient texts such as the Epic of Gilgamesh which so clearly illustrate the human’s early relationship to sex which was decidedly sacred. Sex was seen as not only a way to make more humans or to merge two lovers but also a way to fertilize the crops and open spiritual doorways to the Divine. Sex was ritualized in the ancient sacred prostitution temples as a healing and restorative sacrament. Out of these ancient and sacred roots, the more secular takes on prostitution have sprung. Some forms of present day prostitution are anything but sacred or healing but those who practice the ancient arts are more prevalent than most would surmise. And even for those escorts who see their work as simply a job, a way to pay the bills, there often exists an attitude of service, a gift for giving, an element of compassion which can be uncommon in other areas of work.

      Prostitution is after all first and foremost a service industry and as such it attracts practitioners who are adept at being of service. Of course, for the many providers who offer pro domme or the allure of elite companionship, the focus may seem to be less on service and much more on celebrity. But even here, I see the roots in ancient sacred prostitution. The Oracle of Delphi was a sacred prostitute and kings dared not make major decisions without first consulting with the Oracle. The courtesans of the Renaissance were also very wealthy and powerful and wielded more than a little influence. Today’s courtesan similarly functions as an elite companion and a muse to her powerful clients.

      You might find some of the answers you are looking for by examining the life of Pamela Harriman. She was profiled as a modern day courtesan along with myself on A&E a few years back. Now passed on, Pamela was the US Ambassador to France during the Clinton years and left an estate worth over $10 million dollars.

      I realize all of this flies in the face of the lies we are told about sex workers. It helps me to put it in context by relating it to other lies which have been promulgated by the culture. Lies about people of color and women and gays and lesbians come to mind. Whenever people have taken personal power and refused to bow to convention, the lies about their lives have followed. We must not believe the lies about others because if we do, we will believe the lies about ourselves. And in the final analysis, we are all very human, having very similar needs and desires and fears and insecurities. If we can see each other as human first, we really will have no problem accepting our differences as long as the adult consensual choices we make do not harm anyone else.

      Veronica Monet, ACS,CAM

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