Are there people in your life who you wish you could change? Take a moment to survey the people in your life and think about who you have been trying to fix, correct, or change. Do you believe that if they just changed this or that things would be better for you and them? Most people at one time or another have tried to change something about another person. This topic seemed touchy for me to write about. For starters, most people feel very righteous about why they feel someone needs to change; I know I have felt this way. I know when you want to change someone else you really believe it is important and will make a difference. As a result that belief is hard to let go of and that is why I thought it may be a touchy subject. I thought about it more and why I felt I had to write about this pattern. I see that trying to change others causes suffering. So how does wanting to change someone else even if you think it is for their own good harm you? It harms you because it fills your relationships with frustration, resentment, and disappointment. When you want to badly change someone else, you put a lot of hope and faith into them changing and what it will produce. When the other person does not respond to your efforts to change them you get angry and resentful. Then you end up feeling disappointed that they won't change. Also that person most likely gets angry at you for trying to change them and for making them wrong. There are smoke screens that surface in wanting to change others. First, you believe that if this particular person would change x, y, and z, then everything would be ok and you will be happy. So it ties into the "if this then happiness" pattern I wrote about last week. Second, it convinces you that you have the power to change another person and you feel a sense of control over life. The other people are not necessarily the "problem". So even if the other person changes often you find yourself still feeling the void you thought would be filled by the other person changing. People reflect who you are, think of people as your mirror and they are reflecting your image back to you. So when you see something you do not like in another person it is reflecting to you something you do not like about yourself. Essentially what is really happening when you want to change another person is you are not accepting something in you which leads you to no to accept it in others. I will share something from my own life. I tend to get triggered by someone who is judgmental or negative. The truth is I do not like when I judge others or have a negative attitude. So I try to avoid or pretend that I am not like this when in fact I can be. I make myself wrong for judging or being negative and when other people are like this in front of me it stirs up my own frustration. Accepting you is the most effective way to find peace in the petty drama of wanting to change others. That means even accepting the parts of you that are not so desirable. In doing this you become open and accepting of yourself and others. The more you learn to love and accept you the more tolerant you are of others. You only have the capacity to accept and love others to the extent that you accept and love yourself. When I am having a particularly hard time accepting something about another person I take on what I call the "holy lens". This means I try to look at the person in a way that I believe God (infinite spirit, Allah, Krishna whatever you use to refer to your higher being) would look at them. I ask myself the question "would God look at this person as defective, wrong, or needing to change"? This is how the smoke screen is lifted, my vision gets clear, and power returns. Surrendering is also an important to practice when giving up trying to change another person. I teach my clients to cast the burden of needing to change someone else to the universe. It is far more equipped then me or you in handling the affairs of others. In doing this they feel relief at not having to carry the burden anymore. They start focusing on being responsible only for themselves and consequently find that they are not as affected by others' "wrong way of being". Generally people in their life either start to change or the ones who do not tend to fade out of their lives. The amazing thing is when you stop trying to change someone else they tend to open up and want to change. I know looking at yourself is hard to do and it takes a lot of courage to look at who you are being. I think a large part of why so many people try to change others is that it is easier to focus on changing someone else then it is to change you. It is scary to look at yourself; you do not know what you will find. Remember that there is nothing in you that you will not find in someone else. Be patient and accepting with yourself and that will give you the power to look at yourself. Your assignment for this week: Who have you been trying to change or fix? Look to see if what you are not accepting about this person is something you do not like about yourself? Accept yourself and acknowledge that you are human. Identify what it has cost you by having this view and/or agenda to change someone else. Surrender this burden of wanting to change another to the universe.
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