For over twenty years, I have worked in an industry that offers hope and possibilities to many people. The incredible tools that we can use in order to effect change in ourselves are there. Perhaps as a result of this plus increasing competition between practitioners of such tools, it is common to see outrageous and over the top claims made by various people attempting to build their brand. While tools such as NLP can make a huge difference to the quality of people’s lives, sometimes because something can be done quickly, instant change is always promised. To me, the whole process of how change works has been misunderstood.
I have worked with clients with phobias they have had for years and made it so, that within a few minutes, they no longer had the phobia. Results like that are incredible to many but not that surprising once you learn about the fast phobia cure for example. We have faster ways of helping people with their problems than ever before. However, at the same time, in many cases change still takes time.
Our intentions are good. We want to avoid at all costs making a client dependent on the therapist. Simultaneously, we want to avoid them requiring therapy over many sessions and a long time while not getting results. But in our efforts to stop this, the danger is that we are creating false expectations for everyone. We mix the difference between positively framing the session so people believe in it and making grandiose claims that, if not realised, will dash the client’s belief in the work.
Suggesting that something like major depression can be cured by one session for example is insane from my perspective and often does far more damage to the individual’s chances of success. Here is why. If they have the session and they face the darkness again, it is very easy to assume… ‘Oh no. It didn’t work’. When you make promises to people you must remember that there will be negative consequences if you let them down.
The truth is sometimes the work you do can produce phenomenal and immediate change and that is great. Other times, despite great work, the person’s beliefs will mean that they don’t fully take ownership of the change for quite a while. Or they believe in the change but worry that it may ‘wear off’. These are common concerns that clients often have. Let’s say someone has a phobia of something and you work with them and help them sort it out. They think of what they were scared of and they feel okay about it. You have done good work. Except if they believe that the change won’t last or the ‘phobia will come back’ or it may not really be fixed in the ‘real world’. Their beliefs might get in the way of their own freedom.
So, what am I suggesting? Well I have a message for change workers and those people going through change.
For change workers, the key is to describe how you want the process to work and the results you will expect them to get when they have practiced working with the tools you have given them. Explain the possibilities of instant change as well as the possibilities of gradual change. Predict the various possibilities that might occur as a result of the work you have done with them and inoculate or prepare them for all challenges ahead so that they still feel like they are conquering the problem. Give them tools and techniques to practice themselves as well as giving them the belief that they have made the change. Believe in them and give them belief in themselves but also prepare them for any potential setback. Make it impossible for them to fail.
For those people going through change, the key is to realise that change will happen at different speeds and is often dependent on the work that you do. Recently I wrote an article on beating depression. Despite many people expressing how they were helped, I was accused of two things by someone. One was of not giving all the specific tools or techniques that people need to use when they struggle with depression. In fact, many of the posts on my blog and videos have outlined dozens of such techniques. In that post I was trying to do something different. I was trying to connect with anyone struggling and let them know that, no matter what, they can overcome this. They can beat it. To me, that message is so much more important.
Second, it was suggested that, in their experience, people didn’t get through depression so they were sceptical that it was possible. Now taking this point to its logical conclusion then we should just all give up trying to help people with depression since nothing helps. But I disagree. Not just because I have got through the bouts myself or that I have worked with many people who have done the same but because believing in hope and believing that things can get better is always more useful than not.
You see, the perspective that you can be forgiven for is the idea that there is nothing you can do… but just because you can be forgiven for it does not mean that it is correct. The reality is that if you want to change the way you think or feel, you can. Sometimes it will happen in a moment and sometimes it will require work and you will have to learn to master a new skill. You need to remind yourself of this.
Lastly, something absolutely vital and critical for anyone involved in the change process to know is the importance of changing the way we think about change. This whole idea of seeing change as something that can ‘wear off’ is dangerous. Change is something you do, not something that happens. Circumstances may change, but how you change in relation to that is up to you. As you tackle the problems that you face, you must believe that you can change, learn everything you can possibly do, do all you can do as well as you can and believe in yourself. That is the ultimate key to long-term change.