Consider the following:

Before you try to change others, think of how hard it is to change yourself.

I saw those words in a recent email and remembered an exchange I had many years ago.

I was about twenty when someone remarked on an effort I had made to change another’s behavior.

i understood the remark as saying I had done something too aggressively. I replied that I always try to change a behavior I dislike, adding that if I fail I may change my behavior.

What say you?

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"Before you try to change others, think of how hard it is to change yourself."

I cannot recall when I have been able to change others' thinking. I can express my thoughts about how others behave, and I often do. Sometimes I find that I am wrong in my thinking and have to apologize for my criticism. 

As to changing my thinking and behavior, if I am given valid reasons why I should change, I am able to hear and acknowledge what others say to me and it is my responsibility to explore their rationale. If I think they correctly assess my behavior, I make a mighty effort to change. If I think they incorrectly asses my behavior, I am as stubborn as a Missouri mule to make sure I maintain my position.

Sometimes I am wrong!  

Joan, I have twice in groups changed the prevalent thinking by using paradoxical intention. 

It has many online definitions; one of them says it’s a psychotherapist’s trick.

When a group’s members saw an unwelcome future (such as no candidate for a necessary office or a declining membership), and when preventing it required a change no one person wanted to make, I described that future in terms so calm that those who were present might have wondered if I had any emotions.

I wonder if paradoxical intention joined with lucid dreaming would demonstrate the concept. The final year, or so, of my marriage, I had horrid nightmares that kept repeating. One was of me pushing a grocery cart full of all my belongings and wearing many layers of my clothing, asking for food. One night I told myself to dream of mastering my life; I went to sleep and dreamed of gathering all the "bag ladies" and organized a protest group. I dreamed we stormed the City Hall, we were able to speak and we described our plights, what we needed and wanted an opportunity to find a safe, secure, stable place where we could sleep. I don't remember how my dream ended, but I overcame the feeling of helplessness. Shortly after that I packed up my three kids, left my abusive husband and created a new life for us.  

Tom, when you used paradoxical intention, can you describe how you did it?

Joan, IMO that qualifies; it resulted in action that succeeded. I didn’t know what lucid dreaming is and didn’t use it.

Imagine this: A club’s members meet each month, and at an annual meeting they elect four officers to year-long terms.

One year none of its 25 members wants to run for office. The meeting, unable to do anything, drags until a creative (lucid?) member suggests “Let’s don’t elect any officers. Four of the people at a meeting will do the necessary tasks and they will be that month’s officers.

The suggestion jars people from their “neurosis” and four people agree to serve for a year.


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