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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jon

Why We Change




Amada Rosa Pérez was a famous Columbian actress and model in the early 2000’s. She was the model[1] of all young aspiring models. Money, expensive clothes, exotic photo shoot locations, fame, attention: everything a young model could want. She was at the top of her profession. Her career was a dream come true.


But in 2005, she disappeared.


Speculators went crazy. After all, Columbia is notorious for drug lords, crime, kidnappings, and FARC rebels. But the truth – as is often the case – was far more interesting than the speculation. She resurfaced five years later a completely different woman. She announced that she’d been born again and had dedicated her life to God. She went on to say she had been diagnosed with a disease that caused her to lose 60% of her hearing in her left ear. It really shook her, and she started questioning her lifestyle. “I felt disappointed, unsatisfied, directionless, submerged in fleeting pleasures… I sought answers, but the world never gave them to me.” she said.[2]


She suddenly quit modeling and never working in the industry again. Instead, she said that she had dedicated her life to working with the poor communities in Columbia. She said that her definition of modeling had changed:


“Being a model means being a benchmark, someone who’s beliefs are worthy of being imitated, and I grew tired of being a model of superficiality. I grew tired to a world of lies, appearances, falsity, hypocrisy, and deception; a society full of anti-values that exults violence, adultery, drugs, alcohol, fighting, and a world that exults riches, pleasure, sexual immorality and fraud. I want to be a model that promotes the true dignity of women instead of being used for commercial purposes.”


If that isn’t a change of definition, I don’t know what is.


Prior to her ‘come to Jesus’ moment, she said she was always stressed out and would get upset over minor things. “Now I live in peace.” she said. “The world doesn’t appeal to me. I enjoy every moment God gives me.”


Truly amazing.


Why Change Happens


Lots of people think change takes a long time. It doesn’t. These people are well-meaning but misguided. When people say change takes a long time what they mean to say is that it takes a long time to get to the point where you know you need to change. That can take a long time, but the actual change itself happens in the blink of an eye. I’ve seen it thousands of times throughout my career. No matter the number of unique circumstances, it’s been my experience that how change happens follows a relatively straightforward path:


· My situation was bad in the past.

· It’s terrible now.

· It’ll be unbearable in the future.

· I’M DONE WITH THIS NONSENSE.


And that, my friends, is how we change (I’ll explain why we change below). Simple right? Don’t confuse simplicity with ease.[3] The heavy lifting happens prior to the actual change. It happens when we begin to straighten ourselves out. When we decide to get our thinking right. When we accept the truth about ourselves and our situation.[4] When we accept personal responsibility for where we find ourselves in life. My client Aaron did just that.


Aaron


When Aaron first started seeing me he was a mess. A highly intelligent, 25-yr old, gentle giant of a man who was very depressed, severely overweight and jobless. He had good reason to be this way. Since middle school he’d had a nagging sense of depression. In late 2019 he decided to fix it and began seeing a counselor. She was helpful. After several sessions things were starting to look up. He enjoyed visiting with her. Things were starting to making sense. Then without warning or explanation,


She terminated services with him.


It completely torpedoed him. Try as he might, he couldn’t figure out why she cut him loose. Trying to find an explanation took over every waking minute of his day.[5] He became obsessed with it and nothing else mattered. What seemed doable days before now felt as impossible as free-climbing El Capitan.[6] In short order his life fell apart.


He fell into a deep depression. He had a good job, but kept calling in sick so he got fired. He lost his apartment and had to move back in with his parents. His father would yell, scream, and berate him. The house was so small he ended up living in their garage. He put on 160lbs. He felt like God abandoned him so he stopped going to church. He had few friends. In short order his savings had been completely depleted and he was living on nothing. He became disillusioned with life – bitter and resentful about the past, pessimistic and cynical about the future. He’d lost motivation to live and withdrew further and further from real life. By the time he darkened my office door he’d let 2 and a half years pass, was in terrible physical health, and 90% of his life was lived late at night on Quora.[7] To put it mildly, he was in really bad shape.


Dr. Irvin Yalom is a brilliant psychiatrist who has shaped much of how I do counseling. He wrote,


“Sometimes I feel like a guide, walking around in another person's house, introducing them to rooms in their own home they never knew existed.”


That’s what happened with Aaron. Session after session I would introduce him to rooms in his own life he never knew existed (or perhaps knew they existed, but had stubbornly refused to open the door and look inside). Sometimes our sessions got heated, as struggles with the structure of reality often do, but I never stopped caring about him, and he never gave up. In order for a person to really know the worth of truth they must fight it out. The truth will set you free, but the manner in which it accomplishes this is a process of burning. To know the truth, you must endure the flames of refinement.


I encouraged him to start living his life in a conscious way and stop drifting through it in a meaningless way. I encouraged him to embrace the truth. And that’s exactly what he did.


Sometimes, much of who we are is immature nonsense. It’s very destabilizing to experience yourself as such a fractured individual that much of what you say isn’t an accurate reflection of reality.[8] There are attributes about ourselves that aren’t worthy to be part of us. The truth is the enemy of these unworthy attributes. They cannot coexist. When you embrace truth, it means you give up on keeping hold of attributes that aren’t worthy to be you. A man cannot serve two masters.


Much of who Aaron was had to be burned away. It was painful, but he did it. He got back in the gym. He lost a lot of weight. He got a good job. Most importantly, he gave up on making sense of the counseling debacle that sent him spiraling. He gave up on his “right to be right,” as he aptly put it. Willingly placing himself into the fire, he was freed by the flames of truth.


I find a striking similarity between the process of therapy and the idea found in Revelation 3:20:


Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.


Opening a door to the Divine can save your soul. Opening a door to a therapist can save your sanity. But no one is going to kick your door down. No one is going to rescue you against your will. No one will drag you into a better place kicking and screaming. You have to open the door.


So why do we change? People change because they find a big enough reason why. Amada found her reason why. Aaron molded his reason why from the ashes of his past.


What’s your why?


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__________________



[1] Pun intended! I’m so cleaver. I crack me up. [2] https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/19777/former-colombian-model-shares-conversion-story [3] Another common mistake along the same lines – especially made by mothers of young children – is confusing busyness with productivity. [4] Famous psychologist C.G. Jung said, “That which you most need to find will be found where you least want to look.” Accepting deep truths about ourselves often requires us to go to places we don’t want to go – dark places. We have to accept the depth of our own sinfulness. That’s a very difficult task, and many do not possess the prerequisite resilience to venture into the darkness. [5] Intelligent people often fixate on things. They’re smart so they’re used to figuring things out. When they can’t, it’s like a splinter in their mind they can’t leave alone. [6] Freeclimbing is a way of climbing using only your hands and feet – no rope. El Capitan is a 3,000-foot-tall granite mountain in Yosemite National Park. In 2018, Alex Honnold became the only person to have accomplished this death-defying feat. [7] Quora is an internet forum with chat rooms on everything from Ukrainian geopolitics to sea turtle mating rituals. They describe themselves as, “a place to share knowledge and better understand the world.” [8] This idea is taken from the following excellent lecture entitled, A Heaven Worth Striving For: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_zjdmkou0Q&t=4s.

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