family systems

How Do I Change Somebody?

How do I change somebody?  I often ask this question in my therapy groups at a psychiatric hospital.  Quite insightfully, I actually hear most people respond with, “You can’t.”  That’s right.Image 

Often, it hurts us deeply to see someone struggling, suffering, anguishing- especially if we think we have an answer or solution.  But here is a difficult principle to swallow, but a necessary one: If a functioning adult chooses to be unhealthy or ill, we cannot stop them.  Not accepting this will lead us to get “sick” ourselves and join in the “crazy-making.” 

We can change ourselves, though.  And an effective way to motivate change in others is to influence them.  Think of a difficult relationship you are in or have had.  Then think of it like two gear cogs.  As long as you are engaged with the “craziness,” it continues in both people like gears spinning out of control.  But if one person steps back and changes, it automatically alters the dynamic.  The other person HAS to change if they want to stay engaged with you.  In other words, if you approach something differently than normal, the other person has to do something different- it cannot stay the same- even if the change means that they refuse to be different and you don’t allow yourself to be controlled. 


Extraordinary Relationships

“Contrary to some prevalent notions, smooth-running relationships between individuals- in the family, in the workplace, and even in summit meetings- rarely if ever happen by accident.  Rather, those extraordinary relationships that everyone seeks develop over time, when adults relate to each other in principled ways.  Few people are aware of what these principles are, however.  Furthermore, well-known and widely taught principles can often make things worse.  

“Often what people accept as ordinary relationships too often are not working very well.”

From Roberta M. Gilbert in Extraordinary Relationships (Page 3).