Making Change Happen

By Jayne Raven


'So why do you put up with it?'
asks your friend, with a slightly impatient shake of the head. 'You can do better than that. Pull yourself together! Just go and get yourself a new job...?' Or a new partner. Or a new home.

Those friends don't ever manage to inspire you, do they? As well as the implied unflattering comparison to themselves, there's blame nesting in their words, like an unfriendly hamster in a deceptively fluffy bed. Ask for advice and you end up feeling not just stuck and inadequate, but nursing a bitemark into the bargain. Teetering on the edge of leaving your job or your partner can feel like peeping over Beachy Head. So, to change or not to change? And when we decide to jump into a new future, how do we get the wings to carry us - or the courage to do it?

  • Only you know your own life!

First of all, forget those harsh judgements. Only you know your own life. Give yourself a little credit for where you are right now and what you've dealt with to get here. And by the way, isn't that the trouble with incessant social networking: everyone's living inside your head, if you let them in, and constantly posting inflated or (to put it kindly) aspirational images of themselves in desperate bids for attention. Self-Help Gurus began selling us that glitzy, high-octane ideal of the perfect life some decades ago and it keeps being recycled. You know the one, in which Perfectly Realised Beings manifest endlessly-abundant, endlessly-satisfying lifestyles - and if your lifestyle doesn't match your fantasy, you're blocking your own abundance. So you get to feel very, very guilty about that too. But isn't that just a variant on a damaging Hollywood cliché? Life in a soap opera or a blockbuster movie is All or Nothing, Drama, Conflict and fantasy Romance. It's precisely the kind of black-and-white thinking which gets us into trouble in the long run. Life in Life is about avoiding extremes, appreciating small, daily pleasures, learning to negotiate: cherishing ourselves as the unique but flawed individuals we all are.

That is not to say that we should allow ourselves to be stuck with genuinely unsatisfactory lives. Change is always possible, but sometimes we recognise internally what we should do and feel it's exactly what we can't do. It's as if we have been so thoroughly conditioned by the past that we become immobilised in the present. We all make the mistake of assuming that the future will be a re-run of the past. And we confuse probability with possibility.

A useful (and private) way of getting perspective on planned changes is to use the power of imagination. Find a comfortable place, relax yourself, perhaps by adopting a regular breathing pattern - in for the count of three and out for five - and let the calm rhythm absorb your attention. Now imagine, as a treat, that you can time travel. See yourself waking up on a day in the future after your desired change has taken place. With impartial curiosity, observe how you look and behave. Spool through the day from a distance, as if you were watching someone else's video diary, and notice any outstanding consequences of the change you made. When you've done this, you could take a look at the day as it would be if you didn't make the changes. Notice any kinaesthetic changes you experience as you watch - go with your 'gut'. Does it feel right? Your body will always give you a clue, a feeling or an image-fragment. By assessing how desirable that change would be, you can measure how much to risk in order to achieve it.t.

Some changes are of the utmost urgency...

There are lifestyle changes that you can take or leave: cosmetic adjustments like a new hairstyle or painting the house. These are postponable. There are changes which will lead to a healthier and more fulfilling life, like taking more exercise or mastering your finances. These are desirable and have no real downside. But some changes are of the utmost urgency. If your wellbeing is at risk, then the obstacles to change really do need to be overcome. Being stuck in a destructive habit or a dangerous relationship means that we are prevented from meeting our basic human needs for security and growth - and that we are suffering significantly from low self-esteem.

When our deepest needs aren't being met, we are heading for stress and depression. That destructive addiction or that relationship where things keep going into meltdown are causing a little chemical storm in your mind-body system. The effects of stress are well known. Increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol keep us awake at night, impair our digestive and immune systems, affect our ability to make judgements, cause us to think inflexibly (and thus rob us of our creativity) and eventually cause hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), osteoarthritis and many other conditions. Chronic stress can kill.

Breaking the vicious cycle...

What then, prevents somebody from saving themselves from a dangerous situation? In the case of an unhealthy addiction, such as alcohol or other substance abuse, there's always an element of time distortion. We talk about an 'addictive trance' for good reason. So focused on getting and consuming the substance do we become that the future ceases to exist. Part of the solution is to envisage clearly the consequences of addiction and to find the most pressing motives for change. A hypnotherapist would certainly help this process along, as well as breaking the patterns and associations around the addiction. The subject of addiction, of course, takes us on to reward, rebellion and peer group manipulation. It can look daunting; but I have known even a heroin addict simply walk away from the substance when the motivation to change was strong enough. There's no end to the adaptability and resources of the human mind.

Changes can take genuine courage. You may know someone in a relationship, for example, who just keeps on forgiving a violent partner. You will probably wonder why she or he puts up with them - and conclude, maybe, that it 'must be love'. In fact, nothing is further from the truth. Coping with irrational and unpredictable behaviour, maintaining a front to conceal domestic chaos, protecting children or others from the fallout of emotional and physical abuse: these common dilemmas in a chronically-malfunctioning relationship are deeply stressful. In all likelihood, isolation and fear make it impossible for the victim to get any kind of perspective on what is happening. And the abusing partner, of course, has a vested interest in never allowing outsiders an authentic glimpse into the relationship. Most disabling of all is the victim's deep, underlying lack of self-esteem.


In a short article like this, it isn't possible to cover all the ways that a hypnotherapist would work with a person struggling with the low self-esteem which results from - and often precedes - domestic abuse. Deconditioning trauma (maybe from a painful childhood), setting different priorities (for example, personal safety over 'rescuing' an abuser) and working on healthy personal boundaries are just a few. If the above circumstances remind you of yourself or someone you know, getting all the help you can is an urgent priority. RISE (Tel. 01273 622822, operates an advice service for women suffering domestic abuse. For men, there is the Men's Advice Line on 0808 8010327 or their website


The following short exercise in creative imagination can be used as a boost in preparation for any change you need to make. Choose a time when you can relax without interruption. Read through it slowly and invite yourself to become absorbed in the kinaesthetic/emotional responses you'll experience. Best of all, get a friend to read it to you or record yourself reading it. Repeat often - repetition strengthens synaptic connections and the more rich and intense the experience, the stronger the imprint for change. It is a hypnotic script so should not be used whilst driving.


Published by Hove StressBusters
March 2013


Approaches that may support you:

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Emotional Transformation Therapy (Emotrance)
Hypnotherapy Life Coaching
Matrix Reimprinting NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP)
Sedona Method Thought Field Therapy (TFT)®
Time Line Therapy (TLT)® wingwave Coaching®