I Want You to Change!
One of the banes of the human condition is that we want to change others. A lot.
But we can’t. Believe me, I have tried (just ask my husband, Brian!). In the past, I was the ultimate “wannabe people-changer”. So much so that I never understood why Paul McKenna hadn’t published a book entitled “I can change your people for you”.
And so we have read the books. And we have mouthed the sayings: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” They all caution us against the futile folly of thinking we can change others. And yet, it seems to be an intuitive if not primal instinct. We are sure that they – the other people but never ourselves – are wrong.
For me (and this is somewhat embarrassing to admit), it can go as far as convincing myself that I am doing it for the others’ sake – completely in service to them! They would be so much happier, more successful, better off…. The only thing is that they never seem to embrace my selfless quest on their behalf. Go figure!
So why do we feel like we need our spouse, partner, child, friend, family member, boss, colleague, barista or dentist to change? Is it because we feel as if their behaviour impinges on us? Is it because we know that were that character defect to change or be tweaked or even just acknowledged, then somehow we would be more free and have a nicer life? Or maybe we feel that they would be freer and enjoy a nicer life?
Either way, if you, like me, have tried this – the “Please, oh please can you change!” plea – you have probably noticed that it just doesn’t work. Overt or subtle, it is usually met with solid resistance.
Why is this so? Is it because the person is actually perfect and their perceived frailties, undeveloped character traits or inappropriate habits are a figment of our imagination? I don’t think so. It seems we all have the above in droves. I have my fair share of them and assume you have too!
So I’d like to suggest that we are coming at this outside-in; back to front. Here’s how I see it:
Each one of us is our own independent psychological and spiritual island divinely threaded and interconnected through love. Each of us is given the freedom to think and feel and see life as we do. Another person cannot jump into our minds or hearts or souls and create a feeling in us. It’s not possible. They can only do that for themselves.
So then why do we need another to change?
We somehow assume that our feeling or experience of the world comes from our “want to change person”. According to this mistaken logic, they therefore need sorting out in order for us to have a nicer life. This is unfair. But more than that, it is untrue.
We can experience a nicer feeling without the other person ever changing. That is our spiritual and psychological birthright. Feelings are birthed via the soul of our own consciousness. As we think, so we feel.
If the other person did actually change, such change would affect him or her. It might affect us too, but this would only be because we experienced a change of thought and a change of feeling about them within our own minds. They can’t do that to us. It’s impossible.
People don’t like to be told to change by others. I think it’s because they know deep down they are not in truth responsible for our feelings – be it upset, annoyance, lack of feeling connected or loved, irritation (though I am still convinced if Brian spoke less when we had company, this would make me happier !), and so on.
And here’s the thing I have noticed yet keep on forgetting: each time I ease off trying to change someone (or merely point out a few really helpful tips to my “want to change people”’), they seem to naturally look to themselves and see what they need to see in the next step of their evolution. This is true for me also. Because at a soul level, we all understand our own journey and are trying to move forward. Yes, we sometimes and oftentimes smack up against our own egos which are full of self-righteous indignation. But when judgment of ourselves and others falls away, there is guidance, evolution and learning for all of us. And then, unsurprisingly, we seem to become nicer people.
So as I reflect on my own words, I rap myself on the knuckles and aspire to be more the lover – and less the “changer” – in the coming days.