“The Only Constant in Life Is C H A N G E”

When I first started working at St Joseph’s Hospital, in Chicago, one of the first people I met was B. I can still hear him saying one of Heraclitus’s quotes “The only constant in life is change.” When B. first started his sessions at the IOP, as with many clients, he was very reluctant to believe how much he can change himself and mitigate the effects of his depression. By the end of his sessions, he was the one who would come to me every morning and explain how much he loved the smell of coffee and how much positive impact these little things have on his life. Impressed by B’s mental health improvement, I decided to write about change.

As humans, we managed to survive as species, through evolution. The genetic and behavioral adaptation was the catalyst of our successful evolution. Therefore, if we want to survive, the way is through adapting ourselves to the current environment. Adaptation suggests change. So, why do people are resistant to change, since the end result does not necessarily have negative consequences and it is required from us if we want to survive? If we’re wired to adapt and change, why do most self-improvement books and sites talk about the barriers of change and resistance? For that reason, I believe we first must answer why people do not change.

  • The first reason people do not change is because they simply do not know how to change. Think of this, if you are hungry but you don’t know how to cook, how are you going to eat? Even if you are one of the courageous and try to improvise on cooking, then you may have the element of the unknown, which may leave you worried about the results. Hence, this leaves you starving since you have to take some other steps to satisfy your hunger.
  • Secondly, some people do not want to change and this is mainly due to a mechanism we have, called homeostasis. You’ve probably seen this term in biology books and it is defined as “a self-regulating process by which an organism tends to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are best for its survival.” Homeostasis is responsible for activating corrective mechanisms to reinstate the normal level. Therefore, if you’ve changed the normalcy of your emotional state as “depressive,” then, due to homeostasis you’ll resist any change which will bring you different emotional states.
  • The third reason why someone does not change is because of fear. But, what are they afraid of? One of the reasons that people resist changing their behavior is if the change will threaten or may appear to threaten the way they or others see themselves (i.e., self-concept).

Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean because you’ve figured out ways and reasons why you are not changing, you have reasons to change. In other words, if you’re hungry and the solution is to eat, it does not mean that I’ve given you the motivation to learn how to cook to change your status from hungry to being well-fed. In order to bypass your homeostasis, your unconscious mind has to understand and accept that the change will be beneficial to your survival. Additionally, you will have to accept and digest that it’s okay if your perception of yourself changes because it will be to better and free yourself from any limitations your current perception keeps you in.

Changing needs the courage to let go, hope to believe in the end results, and patience to keep yourself determined even at the time when you feel like giving up. As humans, we live in a symbiotic system; hence any change you make there’s another change taking place. Dr. S. used to tell me “Change is like cleaning out your closet; first you make a mess, then you select what you want to keep and what you want to give away. Lastly, you put everything back. Once you do that give yourself a pat on the back.”