Small safe experiments seem well-suited to approaches to therapy seeking to initiate and monitor the models of change. But there is usually a ‘cost’. Us humans do not always change according to a set pattern!
For an interesting overview of the topic, take a look at: https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/documents/1409/behaviour_review_theory.pdf
Prochaska and Di Clemente
This etext from the world of Forestry (!) mentions the well-known model of change developed by Prochaska and Di Clemente. The process is clearly described in an on-line blog and here. The stages of change can be summarised as you see below:
Looking at this stage-by-stage, the approach demonstrates that much effort goes into get things ‘kick-started’. Change is not initiated just by asking for it. Human beings seem to be designed to go around in circles before moving forward.
This early stage of doubt – denial or ‘resistance’, as it has been unhelpfully labelled for many years – is rather important. Like many of the defence mechanisms it is potentially more helpful than we realise. It stops us in our tracks in order to ask the question – do we need to change? What was that? Is it a temporary blip? Is it worth bothering with? Just get over it! Each response might be helpful in specific circumstances, but who’s to say, unless we stop for a moment.
Another view on the Prochaska and Di Clemente model is:
Six Stages of Change
Notice the ‘stage’ approach has limitations and yet it is worth seeking out the important stage models such as the rather well-known work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and others, on our response to loss and separation.
At the same time, action alone may be insufficient – unless I can shift my way of thinking. How come? It may be ill-advised for me to act unless I have identified the options available to me. Even then, I need to decide on my best option.
All this requires me to make judgements about the situation in which I now find myself, BUT I cannot make those judgements unless I can think.
It’s easy to get caught in a circular argument especially when my ability to think is one of the first casualties when I am lobbed into a shocking situation.
Does The Green Cross Code help!
My road safety training from childhood – STOP, LOOK and LISTEN – offered a friendly way of thinking about the next diagram. Note the need to go round-and-round for a time early on.
Even later on, we need to review what we’ve achieved. Isn’t that exactly the same as our need to consider the results of any small, safe experiment?
Each turn around the green oval, below, is a safe experiment. Each safe experiment needs preparation and each result needs to be reviewed in order to hang on to – maintain – any forward movement.
Also, please note that action can initiate change, but some people are better at maintaining change than others.
Some safe experiments are easy to initiate, yet some are not so easy to sustain.
Have you noticed that?
The classic example here is the New Year Resolution. These are easy to make but are often not thought through; they are difficult to sustain in practice. The notion of ‘contemplation’ in models of change show that the failure of new years’ resolutions arise from our failure to respect the importance of preparation.
Here is another perspective on the process.
Virginia Satir and the Systemic view of Change
Virginia Satir offered another view of change. One that still relies on the scenic route to change!
Going to a therapist can be just such a ‘foreign element’. It can foster resistance and chaos. Fortunately, it does not have to do this, but it is not easy to transform ourselves without something ‘tripping us up’, as the left hand side of the illustration demonstrates.
Can you compare these comments with my account of the Window of Tolerance (WOT)? Stepping outside our WOT tempts us into catastrophising, ritualising, rigidity and chaos as illustrated in my illustration.
This brings me to the last model of change I want to include (there are many so you could look further in to this subject if you like!).
A Gestalt perspective on change
A SAFE EXPERIMENT
What ideas transforming your life can you remember from your past? It is likely that you did not notice where that idea came from. If you did, however, write something down about that trigger – the thing that helped bring the transforming thought or action into existence.
If you did not notice what brought it about consider, instead, the outcome or consequence of the transformation? What bits helped and what bits ended up hindering you after the event?
Use the diagrams to recall anything that describes the chaos you experiences Can you write about how you walked out of chaos into a more ‘integrated’ life – assuming this is what happened? Perhaps you noticed rigidity, rather than chaos – or catastrophising, rather than ritual responses.
Are there things that you need – even today – to help things fit together in your life (integration is the fancy term for fitting things together)?
If it helps, remember a time when you did a jig-saw. Often there is a moment when a lot of pieces are fitted together but it still looks too big and disorganised. Then, often all of a sudden, the picture shrinks and you can see the whole thing. The end result, fully fitting together, is most often smaller than you anticipated.
Make some notes on the journey you took and some of the obstacles you had to overcome.
PS If you think this is a new idea, take a look at John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress (1678)!