Introduction to “Choosing Change”
Let me welcome you to a series of posts that I’m calling “Choosing Change.” I’m writing about this subject for multiple reasons, but primarily because I wish to provide you with my thoughts regarding how we change, what helps us to change, what impedes our change and how to sustain positive change in order to develop, grow and achieve any personal and/or relational goals that you may target for yourself.
On the face of it, this seems like it could be a tall order to deliver huh? Possibly, but I’m up for the challenge and there’s a lot that we’ll incorporate into this process as well to reach my goal. I’m going to try to accomplish this by balancing and practicing the principle of “keeping it simple” while also integrating materials and resources that speak to the complexity of who we are as human beings and what helps us to change, heal and grow through circumstances in our life. Yes, for me, this is a tall order however I’d like the last series of posts that will conclude the seventh and final book in the Cultivating Love book series to be thoughtful, meaningful and very practical for you!
So to that point, I’m going to use and integrate terms and resources from the disciplines of Theology, Psychology, Biology (Bio/Phytoremediation and Neuro-), the Twelve Steps and so on. I promise I’ll try to not bore you unnecessarily with too much psychobabble that doesn’t make sense, but I’ll need to include some terms because there’s no way around achieving meaningful change unless we integrate what I’ve come to realize are very crucial ingredients and “change agents” for any possible and substantive change we’d like to experience.
I want to acknowledge at the outset here that some of you have already discovered, implemented and benefitted from sound clinical, psychological and spiritual approaches that has helped you in your own ability to change, heal and grow. With you, I celebrate and I have joy that you’ve found resources (human, printed, practical and experiential resources) that’s helped you to currently live an authentic, purposeful and rich life in light of the changes you’ve made for yourself. By all means, enjoy the fruit of your labor!
However, more than likely, there’s others who still haven’t yet discovered, identified nor converted helpful information into constructive behaviors that not only achieves but also sustains personal and interpersonal change and growth in their life. Its for the latter group of people that I’m composing Choosing Change, with the hope that you’ll read and find information that you could integrate into your life that makes sense about how you could covert information into decisions, and see your decisions transform into positive outcomes in your life, one decision and one day at a time. To both groups though, I offer to you the slogan often repeated in 12 step meetings: Take what you could use and leave the rest!
So in concluding this introduction on Choosing Change, I’d like to leave you with a few images that describe how I conceptualize the change process. I think that change is represented and often occurs in three environments or processes like this: in a Crucible, in a Garden and in a Soup (I hear you, what the heh!).
1. The Crucible: A Crucible is a vessel in which substances are heated to high temperatures. Typically when items go into a crucible and are heated at a high temperatures, they transform from one shape and form to another shape and form, which means the final outcome of whatever went into the crucible will be very different when it leaves the crucible. In effect, a change has occurred.
As a Psychotherapist, I’ve received people into my office who for one reason or another have been “catapulted” into a crucible, where their current life circumstance has produced shock, anguish and what at times appears to be excruciating pain.
During those moments I’ve heard questions asked like “What do I do now? How do I survive this (crisis)? Will I ever recover from this (recent discovery or loss)? What will it take?” In those moments, one of the messages I hear embedded in their suffering is “What could bring about relief, healing, change or growth from my current life situation?”
Their questions and their suffering experience deserve a therapeutic response and I’ve come to realize that the appropriate “intervention(s)” along with the relevant change agents added into their crucible experience at the right time could render if not produce the relief, change, healing and possibly hope they’re envisioning for their life, even in the midst of a devastating situation. So if your change experience might resemble a crucible encounter, what do you think would need to be added into the crucible in order for you to be different when you “exit” what’s possibly a suffering experience? For me, Humility, Love, Understanding, Friendship, Self-Discipline and frequent encounters with my Higher Power have been helpful to name a few. What about you?
2. The Garden: When seeds are planted into the soil of a garden, they not only undergo a transformation but we also witness a sort of progression with their development (i.e., they grow from a seed to a seedling, then from a sprig to a plant and finally to a tree and then to a fruit bearing tree). Over a period of time (or as I like to describe it, seasons of a person’s life) that seed changes from one form to the next, where the final state of the seed is much different than it was in its original state.
Because of the seed’s dynamic experience with components that are not man-made (i.e., sunlight for photosynthesis, water, as well as minerals in the soil), but in addition to behaviors that are based in humanity (such as care, nurture, fertilizing, pruning, safety, support and protection) the seed has a chance to develop, change and grow. The interesting thing here is that the seed, in spite of all of the changes and iterations connected with its development and growth, always produces something that’s edifying and nourishing when it matures (fruit or fruitfulness) in addition to bearing seeds which reveals its unique capacity to reproduce mature and fruitful outcomes again and again and again.
In the garden of therapy or any in any environment or encounter that’s therapeutic, positive and constructive developmental changes have the opportunity to occur usually over different seasons of our life. Hopefully in these seasons of our life we’ll encounter or intentionally invite people into our garden who’ll “fertilize” our growth and development, however, like any growth that occurs in the garden, we’ll also struggle, need some form of external support and may experience a few more episodes of being “pruned” (which could be painful, but necessary) so that our outcome will help us to be all the more productive and fruitful. Equally, we’ll probably need to become aware of what boundaries we’ll need to implement in order to experience some form of safety or protection from the pesky “saboteurs” that seek to threaten our change, growth and development.
So here, I’d like to ask a few questions: Would you like to change and grow like this? What seeds would you like to plant in the garden of your life? Discipline, Hope, Empathy, Containment, Compassion or Cooperation? What else could be missing that you’d like to plant, develop, protect and harvest, so that you and others could be edified by the changes you’re envisioning for yourself?
3. The Soup: The final picture of change is represented in the image of a bowl of soup. Somewhat like the crucible, when items go into the soup they’re heated, however the difference here is that the ingredients maintain their shape and integrity while taking on the flavor or “influence” of the other ingredients. With this last analogy, change has occurred but the definition and character of the “objects” involved have been subtly or profoundly (but delightfully) impacted.
As with the garden, when we reflect on the changes that could (or need) to occur in our lives, a few more questions come to mind: Have you thought about what edifying characteristics you’d like to provide or impart into the lives of others? What impact would you like to make upon others? How do you see yourself “seasoning” others in your endeavor to leave a good impression with them? What crucial ingredient(s) could be missing that would help you to make your change thorough or “complete?” Who needs to be added into your life to enhance your ability to be full of flavor?
So this is how I conceptualize our change processes. I’m sure there are more, but again, I’d like to keep it simple. We’ll return to these 3 analogies over the course of these posts as I think making changes in our life that are “therapeutic” and substantive will most likely occur in one of these three environments.
Finally, the Twelve Steps, and specifically Steps Two (“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”) and Step Three (“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him”) help me to realize that when I’ve experienced something that’s excruciating, and a crucial ingredient needed to be added into my crucible, garden or soup experience I’ve described above to either empower or sustain my change, then often that change agent is my Higher Power, who for me is the one connected to the cross.
My studies and life experiences have helped me to see that excruciate, crucial, crux (of the matter) are words that originate from the Cross, and for me, when I’ve connected to this Power greater than myself, then change begins, continues and He influences my behavioral outcomes. Please know that I’m not trying to proselytize here, but simply explaining who my Higher Power is. I hope that your life experience has or will help you to identify who that powerful, often non-man made entity is in your life that helps you to not only make sense of your experiences, but also empowers you in your effort to change, heal and grow into the person you’d like to be.
So remember, take what you can use and leave the rest. Personal choice is one of the most vital ingredients in the change process. Its my hope that you’ll find a lot that’s useful as we contemplate and implement decisions that lead to change, healing and growth in your life. Thanks so much for reading these posts. Future posts on Change will be labeled “Choosing Change #1,” “Choosing Change #2,” “Choosing Change #3” and so on.
Also, as time permits, please visit the other blogs written by Dr Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.
Dr. Ken McGill
TeleHealth/Video counseling sessions are available for those who prefer to meet online – Dr. McGill
This is great Doc! I have been reading a book that is super good that talks about change in our lives. It’s called the Power of Habit. Author Charles Duhigg. He talks about a study that was done with AA. Basically study concludes that those in AA who lean heavily on the Divine are the ones who make it through the crisis moments of their recovery, while others often give in again to their addiction. I would not have made it without the power of the Spirit in the messy-ness of my recovery. Today I call it resurrection, not recovery.
There is really nothing in my old life that I wanted to recover. The pride, ego, self hatred, pleasure-seeking, identity in achievement… all needed to die and be buried. My past only offered all the things that got me into addiction in the first place. By God’s immeasurable grace, I am four years completely sober from porn and sexual vice. Growing a brand new garden!! Thanks for being there for me in the first couple years coming out of my crisis… wouldn’t have made it without your compassion, wisdom and hope.
Thanks so much for your insight and work Blaine. I have so much gratitude for being a part of your change process! Keep up your great work as you season the lives of many! Ken
Thank you for this post Dr. McGill. I love the metaphor of the crucible, the garden and the soup that demonstrates that change is necessary, a process and sustaining. It parallels the process of alchemy where we have the opportunity to turn lead into gold, the solidification process and what shape do we want to remold ourselves? This post has great wisdom for the client and the therapist and the community.
Thanks Tamara. Even with the complexities of life, and all that goes into the change process, sometimes it appears to be simpler than we make it. Thanks again, Ken M