Psychology

Why the change needs to be holistic


When you’re making a significant personal change, you will have to alter many aspects of your life. Sometimes this happens automatically, but most often it doesn’t.

For example, when an alcoholic decides that he is finally going to stop drinking, most often he makes this change on a behavioral level. He simply stops buying drinks and consuming them.

But such a huge change will have an impact on other aspects of his functioning. His identity will probably change (from an “alcoholic,” “party animal,” “drunkard,” or however he perceives himself)—he has to become someone other than he used to be. In such situations, I always advise individuals to construct a new identity that is appealing to them. For example, the term “abstainer” can bring to mind a picture of uptight friends from school who were always obedient, not someone they would like to become.

Some changes will happen automatically. For example, having fun becomes less important, and being healthy becomes more important.

Other aspects of one’s life may change automatically but slowly. For example, friends who tend to drink a lot will gradually tend to have less contact with the person quitting alcohol. Because this may take months or years, it can appear to be a more harmonious process.

However, it may happen that making a change to some particular part of one’s life will be especially difficult and uncomfortable. For example, people who have quit drinking often notice that they don’t feel comfortable in the environment they’ve built around themselves. They no longer have a rapport with old friends, and they start hating the places where they used to spend most of their time. A similar effect is seen when the person lacks the skills required for this new identity—for example, the skill of handling unpleasant emotions.

Often the “old self” and the “new self” will not be able to come to terms, and the abovementioned environment or lack of skills will sabotage the change and summon the old identity and values to handle this internal conflict.

Whatever kind of change you are making—quitting drinking, starting a new business, going to the gym, resolving a conflict in relationship, becoming a better lover, or working with basic traits of your personality—the change will be easier if you pay attention to all aspects of yourself.

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