Here is What You Need to Know
Can you be talked into changing? Think about a “bad habit” you have had difficulty changing. Now please consider how likely are you to change your habit, why or why not, and what would help you to make the change?
Resist your righting reflex
Righting reflex is a natural urge to fix a problem, an instinct to correct the wrongdoing. Your intention is to fix your problems and it comes from a very good place but understanding where you are at in your change process should be the first step. Keep in mind that people tend to push back against persuasion, including self-persuasion.
If you are not ready for action, pushing yourself towards the direction of change will not help and can result with unsuccessful goal planning.
Identify your stages of change
Origins of the stage of change model comes from psychologists Prochaska and DiClemente. What these psychologists suggest is that people don’t just change overtime; they go through a certain process with five stages of change. The stages of change are pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
In the pre-contemplation stage, you may think of “What is the problem?”At this stage, feeling discouraged about the change is expected. You may also have no need or desire to change or may want to change others around you rather than focusing on your own needs. In this stage of change, therapy encourages you for exploring the possibility of change, raises your awareness and identifies your dissatisfaction about the current issue.
In the contemplation stage, you may be aware of the problem and more willing to discuss it. Therapy examines risks and rewards for change and explores your ambivalence about it. Exploring what can possibly happen with your life if the presented issue continues helps to build motivation and desire.
In the preparation stage, your ambivalence towards change is resolved. You may start recognizing your plan to make change. Therapy helps you to identify your strengths, needed skills, resources, and support system. Making your intentions public, such as sharing with a friend that “I’m going to do this” is an important positive step that is expected at this stage. This is also a stage of gathering resources and learning more about what this change will look like. Experiencing mixed emotions at this stage is very common, and often nervousness and excitement are observed.
In the action stage, you may start taking concrete steps towards the desired behavior. Therapy helps you utilize a plan and continues to remind you of long-term benefits of change. Therapy also helps you build self-knowledge, confidence, and resilience. Keep in mind that practicing a new behavior for about 3 to 6 months is recommended to maintain the changes you made. In this stage, you may experience setbacks but feeling hopeful is the main emotion you may experience.
In the maintenance stage, you’ll find yourself needing less support and you are likely to maintain the new behavior beyond 6 months. Therapy helps you identify your personal strategies, including developing “what if” strategies, such as, “What if I experience this set back and feel discouraged?”. Therapy also helps you identify the warning signs that may give you the signal that your old habits want to come back.
It’s important to know that at any point in these stages, there can be a relapse. However, how you react to and cope with the relapse stage makes a huge difference on your motivation and desire to maintain the change. If you relapse (going back to your old/bad habit) at whatever stage in the process, therapy helps you to re-engage with the change process, reassesses your motivation and barriers, and identifies your coping skills.
If you want to change the “bad habits” in your romantic relationship…
In couples therapy, the most common bad habit that I encounter is the way that couples interact. The way that you communicate with your partner is highly habitual. This bad habit comes out in verbal and nonverbal communication. As an example of a bad nonverbal communication habit, somewhere along the way you learned to roll your eyes when your boyfriend tells you to do something, and he learned to shut down or withdraw from the conversation when you ask him how he feels. As an example of a bad verbal communication habit, you automatically find yourself answering your wife with “Whatever, I don’t care” when she asks your opinion, and she tells you that “You never pick up after yourself” when she feels frustrated with how messy the house is.
Couples therapy provides various benefits to your relationship when the relationship is going through changes. First, therapy helps you and your partner to realize that your bad communication habits are learned behaviors, and whatever is learned can be unlearned. It also helps each of you to focus on what you want to change personally to be the best possible version of yourself in your relationship, rather than focusing on what your partner needs to change. This specific intervention eliminates blame and resentment in the relationship and helps you and your partner to resist your righting reflex by preventing the premature advice giving. Therapy also encourages each of you to recognize where you are at in their stage of change. It is common that you and your partner may be at a different stage of change, but the good news is you can continue to explore how you can navigate this difference. At this stage of couples therapy, it is important to avoid labeling your partner as the person who is unwilling to change, and it is equally important replacing the following statement, “Oh, they just don’t want to change,” with “I don’t understand my partner’s hesitation to change right now, but I’m curious to learn more about where they are coming from and where they are at with this change.” Obtaining resources and support while you and your partner are going through stages, working through your setbacks and barriers for change, gaining awareness about your relationship’s strengths and resilience are other benefits of couples therapy. Overall, couples therapy aims to replace the bad communication habits through various interventions, instils trusts, fairness, hope, and mutual understanding.
If there is a bad habit you find it difficult to change, either in your personal life or in your romantic relationship, please contact me.