Many people claim they want to change, but don’t really mean it. Some are content with saying, “everyone has flaws, and so do I,” as if that excused them from even trying to improve. Change requires determination and discipline; relinquishing established habits is a difficult process that brings pain and even withdrawal symptoms.
But some people certainly do want to change, such as those who developed a phobia of, say, riding elevators, travelling by plane, driving on a highway or even attending a crowded event. Understanding the reason why these irrational fears exist is important, but not enough. To get past a phobia, one must face it; once they’ve experienced the act that terrifies them so much, people are finally able to realize their strengths outnumber their weakness. Going through this ordeal improves one’s self-esteem, which brings other benefits and progress in other areas of life.
Many compulsions and addictions are soothing or pleasurable, which makes them even harder to abandon. Performing a compulsive ritual such as biting fingernails can reduce anxiety, but it also causes harm. It’s the same as overeating chocolate – which brings very clear consequences; it’ll release the tension, but it’ll cause a depressing weight gain that, in turn, brings tension, which will be solved with a chocolate binge. It’s a vicious cycle, easy to diagnose but difficult to leave. Only by a clear view of the situation and a lot of strength can a person abandon these habits and pave a stable path in their nervous system; it is easy to go back to the pathways of compulsion whenever one’s guard is down.
If it is so hard to get rid of compulsions, what can be said about freeing oneself of addictions? Addictions are even tougher; they bring immediate pleasure, but the damage they cause comes later. It demands maturity, to renounce a short-term benefit in favor of a better future. Only mature people can be tenacious enough to stop smoking, drinking, taking drugs or gambling, once they realize how harmful it is to them.
Learning to say “no” is not easy, even when it’s for the best, such as to protect one’s own rights, to stop a user or to raise one’s children well. A good person has a duty to refuse to give or do something against their beliefs or that will harm someone else. Many, however, out of guilt or pity, find it hard to say no, even when they know they should. Human beings have several sides; some parts act according to a set of standards, and others, if they were preponderant, would act differently. It seems like there two different levels of human conscience: one that obeys the official values of its culture, and another that listens to its own, personal and sincere convictions. Often, one of these consciences is strongly influenced by emotions I have already mentioned, such as pity, guilt, fear or the dictates of the neurological mechanisms that perpetuate behaviors that might not be in our best interest.
It’s hard for a generous person to learn not give so much and to receive a fair amount in return; it’s even harder for a selfish person to grow and become self-sufficient, which a necessary requirement if they want to learn how to not need to receive more than is their due. Men find it very difficult to overcome sexual inadequacies, because their concern about their performance makes them so anxious that what should be pleasurable becomes distressing. So on and so forth: it is very hard to change one’s conduct. Nothing comes easy, but change is possible; it depends on the strength and determination of those who truly want it. In almost every case, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the therapeutic resources available to those who are not too arrogant to understand they might need help from someone who knows how to change those problematic pathways, which are not an indelible part of oneself.
Tradução: Amanda Morris