Laura Di Vilio RP, AOCA, Member CAPT

Laura Di Vilio, Psychotherapist
The Beach and Queensway-Royal York
Life Transitions
ext. 219

How Change Happens

Change happens in the imagination first. It begins as a thought that is new to us. A thought that counters the ones have been ingrained into our psyche. You imagine a new possibility of yourself which makes your heart flutter with a spark of excitement. It is a new idea, a new view of yourself, a different angle, a perspective that previously eluded you. And if you can hold off the judgement for just a moment before you crush this newborn image you just might embody it.

I see the imagination as the soul dreaming itself into being. By soul, I mean your essential self, unmarked by the doubts and fears and ego creations of the mind. Your true self unspoiled. If you allowed your imagination to show you all the possibilities without judgement or hindrance it will tell you more about who you truly are rather than the negative voices that originally came from outside of yourself.

These are the voices you heard when you were growing up that told you that you were “no good”, “pretty but not smart”, “never amount to anything”, “unlovable”, “wicked or bad”, “useless”, “lazy”, “impossible” : negative judgements delivered by those close to you. Judgements that were heaped on you because you didn’t conform to someone’s expectations.

The people behind these voices may have gone away, but they have left their mark. You were told the same thing so many times that you came to think of them as true reflections of who you are. You are “hopeless, useless or unlovable”. These judgements are now so internalized that you end up continuing the negative chorus without any outside help. You listen to the inner judge and act out in your life as if these characterizations are true.

You believe you are “doomed to failure” so you create situations in your life that will confirm this. You set up situations to fail. You pick a task or a relationship that is “doomed to fail” and “prove yourself right”. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Then the everyday losses you suffer in life add to this belief and we get deeper down into the hole.

I love makeover shows. There are so many of them, and their popularity comes from their ability to inspire and move us. We want to believe that if it can happen to that person, who is just like me, then maybe, it can happen for me too. We get caught up in the magic of transformation, we cry, we have a tiny moment of hope when we watch someone struggle till they break through the barrier that was holding them back. That moment when they can go way beyond what they thought was possible. Powerful stuff this.

My favourites, the ones I find most profound, are where they take someone just as they are, in the here and now, and teach them to be more respectful and loving to themselves. They simply make the point of uncovering the beauty that already exists. There is no cosmetic surgery, no boot camps, and no major reconstruction or change to the body. The change happens in the mind. This is radical change at its best. What they do is help these people see themselves in a better light or, should I say, new mindset.

They remove the old clothing, unruly hair and the bad habit of seeing themselves as ugly or unworthy. Like an old piece of furniture stripped of the dust and dirt of living, and given back its old gleaming finish. These people take a look in the mirror and see a new face but what they really are seeing is themselves wiped clean of self-doubt.

Deep change only happens if your mindset is altered. Altering or changing the outer layer remains superficial. You can lose 100 pounds and still feel fat, remake your nose and still see yourself as ugly. Without that acceptance of who you are right in this moment, transformation is incomplete and unstable.

That is why someone who loses a lot of weight regains it and why someone who gets plastic surgery for one part of their body then goes on to get several more. Unless they see themselves as whole from the inside, no outside change, compliment or attention will do. Long lasting and deep transformation comes from a radical change in attitude. The radical idea that you are fine just as you are. Love and acceptance of your body, your self, your life: as is.

As long as you are waiting for when this happens then my life will change, you become stuck forever in seeing yourself as a problem to be solved, waiting for your life to start. With this attitude you are forever looking for the “next” problem to be obsessed with and the cycle continues.  As long as we look outside of ourselves for what is wrong instead of turning inward and dealing with whatever caused our original feelings of unease and discomfort then we will make up things to be wrong, or we will set our life on a destructive course, creating a need for an operation rather than a change of heart.

Acceptance is looking with the eyes of love and openness. You see your value not your faults. And when you see yourself this way you begin to dress better, treat yourself with more respect, your attitude is of a happy and positive person. You would never think of mistreating this strong and gracious body, to foul up your mind with poisonous thoughts, or deny yourself the best that life has to offer. You walk, talk and present yourself to the world in a whole new way. You want to take on challenges. You want to become a better person by doing good things in the world. You want to treat others in your life with the same love and respect you feel for yourself.

How do you find self-acceptance from the negative place you are in? Understand that it is what you believe about yourself that stands in your way. Become aware of what you are saying to yourself. Are you constantly critical or negative about what you do, how you speak or how you look? Listen to the words and realize that this may not be the truth but the result of hurtful life experiences, the negative voices of others, the loss of innocence or other painful losses and encounters which leave us alienated from the knowledge of who we really are.

Painful experiences leave us disconnected, wanting to separate ourselves from our unresolved feelings. Know that facing these feelings once and for all makes them go away, and gives us freedom from doubt, anxiety and fear. If these feelings remain unresolved, we will build walls of excuses not to go back into relationships, into the rest of our life where we can get hurt again. We draw unwarranted conclusions about the world and our place in it. We create beliefs that keep us isolated, negative, mistrustful and suspicious of others.

Bad things happen to us all, but these things are not what define us. We are defined by the actions we take to meet the challenges of life. We will do well if we begin from the knowledge that we are indeed up for the task. And well worth the effort. Get rid of harmful beliefs and adopt a new vision.

© Laura Di Vilio 2010

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