I’m sure you’ve had the experience in your life of wishing someone would change. It can bring up a lot of anger and conflict. Maybe you’ve even felt powerless to change things for yourself. There are lots of reasons people don’t change.
Let’s talk about a few to open up space and realize that other people not changing is not about whether or not they love you and the reason you don’t change isn’t as simple as “they don’t have the willpower”.
Licensed psychotherapist, Whitney Goodman (@sitwithwhit), shares eleven reasons why a person why change, here are three that we think are the most common:
Lack of Resources and Support
Change is hard. If you don’t have resources to help you understand what you need to change and how you can do it, or someone to support you when you are going through the process, then change is even harder.
It’s helpful to start with getting to the root cause of why you think and behave the way they do. Getting to the root cause usually requires assistance from a professional. And, sometimes people don’t think therapy is for them, are skeptical of its value or are unsure if it will actually help.
A therapist works with you to identify what is contributing to your thought patterns and what your triggers are. “Before attempting to change what you think it’s a bad habit, it’s important to understand why you do it. This will help you sustain the change.” (“Can Someone Really Change their Behaviors, Traits, and Habits?”. psychcentral.com. September 26, 2022. www.psychcentral.com/blog/can-people-really-change)
In addition to tapping into professional resources, it’s important to have support from people in your life. Having someone who will listen to you, encourage you and give you feedback will be like having a safety net to keep you from hitting the ground and giving up when it gets hard. And, if someone doesn’t want to share that they are in therapy or their loved ones wouldn’t support that, it makes accessing that resource even more difficult.
Knowing you have people in your corner who will be there for you no matter what, can give you the courage to change. Without that support you may always be afraid to go all in and commit to change.
When you get used to something it becomes normal and comforting. Changing your normal, whether it’s your environment, your thinking patterns or your behavior, comes with uncertainty because you don’t know what effect that change will have. And with uncertainty comes fear.
We tend to prefer a predictable outcome that is negative over an uncertain outcome.
“Our fear of change is based on stories—both real and the imagined ones we tell ourselves.” (Razzetti, Gustavo. “How to Overcome the Fear of Change”. psychologytoday.com. September 18,2018. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-adaptive-mind/201809/how-overcome-the-fear-change)
It’s easy to speculate and convince yourself that you have no control and that there is something to fear on the other side of the changes you are making. There can also be pressure to be perfect and without knowing exactly what the end result will be, you may be afraid that you will make a mistake or make things worse than they are.
Even if your behavior is negative and causing problems, it may be true that you are getting something out of it so you don’t want to change. For example, lashing out at others may make you feel safe because you are keeping them at arms length and not allowing them to get close enough to hurt you. Therefore, you are getting something out of your negative behavior: you are protecting yourself.
This may mean you kinda like the way things are and are content to just keep doing what you are doing. “…the individual may not realize there’s a need for change. Maybe they lack the insight to understand how the behavior or attitude is affecting their lives.” (“Can Someone Really Change their Behaviors, Traits, and Habits?”. psychcentral.com. September 26, 2022. www.psychcentral.com/blog/can-people-really-change).
Once you start to realize the negative impact that your thoughts or behaviors are having on your relationships or your life in general, you may no longer be content and be motivated to change.
People can change but just because they can doesn’t mean they will. Even when someone wants to change their behaviors and they attempt to do so, it’s very easy to slip back into old habits.