“I dreamt that I killed myself the other day! I left the old me behind…”
Growth stipulates change. And change is a difference, an alteration in before and after. But, if the difference is what we wanted—if we wanted a modification, a shift, an alteration in the core of us, of the core of us—then the change must have been initiated for the purpose of leaving us better off. We don’t endeavour to change just for the sake of changing. And somehow—even if it could be a good thing—we just don’t have the tendency to change from one good aspect of ourselves into another. We change what we perceive is bad, replacing it with and changing it into something better.
When we decide to change, it’s usually from “hurt” to “no hurt”. From discomfort to perceived, needed, wanted, yearned “comfort”. From the yesterday’s self to what we idealise in others, or just idealise, and want to adopt ourselves. It’s usually from bad to good. In reality, there is no bad other than what we see as bad. And the good is what we consider painless, pleasurable, accepting of us, meaningful etc.
The “good” we imagine before change is usually a lot different than the “good” we want as we are changing towards the idealised “change”. The perception of what is good and what we want, changes with change and the perception of change changes along the way also.
Someone wants to change from what they consider selfish, what they feel guilty for, to someone they admire. Or they may want to cease manipulating others, get rid of stress this gets them in their private and professional lives and just let go of old burdens.
Sometimes we want to change the bad feeling, the bad doing and thinking, get rid of the pain and hurt. We want to do that just by discarding the old ways—without knowing what to replace them with. But the change that has no end goal is not a change and getting rid of something without replacing it with something else is illusive.
Change presupposes difference. Change, as a noun is a difference—a difference accomplished by change as a verb. And there is rarely a person that will see themselves before change and themselves after change as equally as good. In therapy that doesn’t happen. If it did, the essence of therapy would dissolve. Why would anyone pay for it if it did? Why would anyone endure the pain of it?
The “before” is dark, contemptuous, shallow, painful self and someone we tend to want to forget. But we never do forget and we never admit to have forgotten—the former nor the latter. We want to get rid of the old self through the process of change and see the idealised change as the light at the end of the tunnel indicating the new self. But then we find ourselves running from the old self as though we hate it, despise it, condemn it more than we condemn anyone else we know. Or even anyone else we might not know for that matter.
The self we wanted to change is the self we become most fearful of. And the more we change the more we are afraid to fall back. The more we change, the more we consider the falling-back a failure. The notion of it occupies our thoughts when we are awake and haunts us in our dreams—we have nightmares. The notion of it stimulates the deepest shame. We want to get rid of all the traces of the past self and have nothing to do with it. We see it as the bad kind of us—one that we want nothing to do with.
But change is growth. And just as anything that grows cannot ungrow, so we cannot unchange. The work you do in therapy cannot be undone. Why would you willingly go to your old ways when you know the old ways destroyed you inside?