Have you ever thought I would like to change that about myself, like I wish I could say what I think, or be more accepting of myself for who I am. Feeling stuck in a way of being that no longer serves you is a difficult and painful place to be, a place you want to change! Fortunately for us a man by the name of Arnold Beisser came up with a theory of change called The Paradoxical Theory of Change.
The Paradoxical Theory of Change is as it suggests paradoxical, in that it is when we give up the struggle for change and instead accept fully what is, as it is, that change naturally occurs. Now this is no easy task as Arnold Beisser would know, having contracted Polio and becoming a quadriplegic in his early twenties a month before the vaccine was made available. From his experience Arnold realised that it wasn’t until he fully embraced himself as he is, rather than trying to be something that he is not, that change came about.
There are three essential elements to this change theory that are required to ensure change. They are firstly to develop awareness around what you do and how you do it. That is, to really get to know who you are, how you feel, what you think, how you act in certain situations etc. In essence spend some time genuinely getting to know yourself as you are, not how you wish to be. Secondly, accept what you find without judgement and with kindness. This can be easier said than done, often we are our harshest critiques so learning to lean into support from others that you trust is paramount. Allow them to reflect back what they see in you. Breathe it in even if you do not yet believe it. Change will not occur without support from the environment and the development of your own self support. Change feels risky you will need all the support you can get. Thirdly, when you embody a heightened understanding of who you are, choice becomes an option. For example, I know I don’t speak up for fear of being rejected. So I keep my feelings to myself, later I regret that I did not say what I needed to say and feel diminished (developing awareness). I now realise that it is I who rejects myself, for the fear of rejection from others (self acceptance, this is what I do). Rather than do this to myself I choose to take a risk, step into the unfamiliar and choose to speak up (choice). I do this with support. This will not be easy and you will feel a strong wish to return to what you always do, which is painful and yet reassuringly familiar. However with practice as you choose through awareness and self acceptance the unfamiliar choices, your way of being slowly evolves into change!