Don’t try to change; instead, observe

Although none of us would like to admit it, we are all machines.

We start off with our basic human programme – our genetic predispositions. On top of this we respond to our environment. In other words, we develop coping strategies according to the environment we grew up in, the treatment we received, how our needs were met or not met and how we responded to and survived this. These adaptations or coping strategies repeated enough times alter our brains and become our “autopilot” – our unconscious automatic responses. Essentially, we can divide these into two types of response: grasping and aversion. (If we label something as good, we want more and we want to hold onto it forever – “grasping”. If we label it as bad we want to avoid it forever – “aversion”). The problem is that the strategies that were incredibly useful at for example, five or fifteen years of age, at a different time and in a different environment, can become harmful and create suffering such as anxiety, sadness, unhappiness – things we quite understandably don’t like and label as bad. So we create a new autopilot response: “resistance”.   We indulge in the pointless activity of resisting the programing of our entire lives and in doing so, we generate even more suffering.  When we inevitably fail to force change, we indulge in fierce self-criticism and we treat ourselves horribly. We would never dream of speaking to a good friend or someone we truly love as badly as we speak to ourselves. This merciless self-criticism, this pushing and forcing will eventually put us on the road to depression, anxiety, maybe even addiction and self-harm.

Think of all your behaviour as a program that simply repeats and repeats itself, often with no regard to context. (The behaviour was useful in the context of a young child in a difficult family but that context no longer exists; the context has changed.) You are a machine; as long as you resist the programming, the programming persist, grows stronger and the suffering increases.

Here is another more useful strategy:

Let go of trying to change. You are who you are; your programing runs deep. Instead, accept who you are. Choose to be who you are and observe yourself with open curiosity. (You are observing to understand, not to judge or blame.) And with a sense of kindness to yourself. (You will fail, sometimes spectacularly; this is when our need for kindness is greatest; it allows us to accept and begin again.) And with a sense of humour. (In the great cosmic plan we are all absurd.)

Change will only come about when we let go of forcing change.

And this is the paradox: Change arises naturally once we really accept that we cannot change.

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