“It becomes easier for me to accept myself as a decidedly imperfect person, who by no means functions at all times in the way in which I would like to function. This must seem to some like a very strange direction in which to move. It seems to me to have value because the curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change.”
- - Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy
About a month ago, I sat across from someone who really listened to me and heard my concerns. He wasn't a therapist, and quite frankly, to listen to his career accomplishments, I would have considered him to be unapproachable under normal circumstances (at least, what normal was for most of my life). However, I had heard him open his heart and share his passion with people... and I knew instinctively that he could be trusted. So I poured out my heart to him. And he listened. And he cared.
In doing what I did, I admitted to myself that I was not happy with the current state of affairs and that I wanted something to change. I also admitted to myself that I didn't have the power to change anything about my circumstances, but I could talk to someone who did.
And you know, it happened. When I heard what had been done to fix things, it was like someone removed a 70-pound pack from my back, one that I'd been carrying around for a year. The relief was so great and so tangible that I welled up and spilled over in tears for a few minutes. And then I contacted the man who had listened - and I thanked him. It was all I could think to do. And it was as natural to do that as to take my next breath.
I write all that because ... because seven years ago, I never would have been able to reach out like that and ask for help. I would have suffered - perhaps not in silence, but in helplessness and misery - and today I realize that the person I was then was me, and the person I am now is still me ... only better, healthier. And the catalyst for change was nothing other than accepting the me that I was then the WAY I was then - and learning to like that person. (By the way, I had help.)
|Photo "Woman Relaxing With Her Eyes Closed" |
courtesy of photostock at
Without realizing it, my behavior and my attitudes about things (not necessarily in that order) began to change. The change was automatic. I didn't have to work at it, except to realize and be aware of my behavior patterns. There were a lot of uncompleted sentences and one-eighties in the beginning as I learned a new way to be. I was becoming a better me. And I still am.
As you can tell from the above quote, I love to read things that Carl Rogers (father of modern psychotherapy) said or wrote. (I even listened to part of one of his taped sessions once. It was amazing.) He also said something else about personal growth. He said that it wasn't a destination ... that it was a direction. A process, not a product. That is my experience. Some of that experience was pretty intense - it involved doing things that were hard - but I tackled them when and as I was ready for them, and not before ... and I still do.
But the weird thing about it all is that without that core of acceptance of who and what I am at the moment, none of the changes I've experienced (and am experiencing) would have been possible or would be possible. It is, as Rogers said, a "curious paradox."
I can't explain how it works. It just does. Slow but sure, millimeter by millimeter.
And I'm okay with that.