This principle is perhaps more straightforward and easy to explain than some of the others, as it relies on an expression we’ve all heard: you can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change.
Blogger Suzanne Ashkam recently posted this gem about nurturance, and the tendency of many of us to try and shape and mold and transform people in our sphere – not just our children, but our partners, our friends, our parents – in ways that are essentially impossible. Nurturing, she reminds us, is a question of flow: offering the necessary tools for health and growth, then letting go.
Even those of us not in the healing professions often find ourselves with “savior complexes.” We are attracted to brokenness, and try to fix people. Or we search for a damsel in distress to rescue. Some people derive part of their identities from mending broken creatures, and in turn, from needing to be needed. While the original intention is good, however, the potential for heartbreak on all sides is high.
For therapists and healers, this impulse can be strong as well, and some doctors even famously have “God complexes.” It is part of the cost of doing business, it seems, that those of us who desire to help others are sometimes tempted to go over the top, and forget this essential principle: the ultimate responsibility for change rests with the client.
The speed, consistency, and depth to which change can occur for a client of Rubenfeld Synergy or any other healing modality depends powerfully on whether the client wants to change. A client who has no desire to change – or no awareness that change might be needed – probably won’t come to therapy to begin with. And a client who comes to therapy but is unselfaware or doesn’t have a strong desire to change may end up in that therapy for years without seeing a lot of improvement. A healer who sees the suffering of a client and maybe sees evidence of incremental change, but nothing major, may get caught in the trap of wanting to continue helping someone, of believing that their client will be helpless without them. In extreme cases, a person in a healing or nurturing position may even do harm, and hold back the person who needs to learn how to heal on their own.
These are extreme circumstances, but the basic principle remains. A Synergist can provide support and caring, can help a client identify and locate issues, can provide a safe space for expression of blocked emotions, processing of old wounds, and releasing of tension. A Synergist can be a guide in the darkness for a client who is searching for the stories of his or her past, or for a path out of hell. A Synergist can hold a client while he cries, can bring strength to a client’s feet so she can stand in her truth, can help a client free her shoulders from their burden, can “have your back” while you do something brave and difficult. But a Synergist cannot change your life for you, cannot make you stop doing the thing you want to stop doing, or start the project you want to start. Even the relief often found in sessions needs to be supported and reinforced by the behavior of the client outside of the sessions: change can only lastingly occur when the client decides.
That decision can sometimes be blocked by things that are beneath the conscious awareness of the client; part of the Synergist’s job is to help bring those things into conscious awareness. Transforming the behavior – finding out what’s making the client continue harmful patterns – is the second step. But it is key to remember that what the Synergist is here for is to help the client change herself.
Next: Clients have the natural capacity for self-healing and self-regulation.
6 thoughts on “Principles of RSM #5: The ultimate responsibility for change rests with the client”
This is really important – thank you for writing about it. I’ll send you email later today about a similar thing in coaching, as well.