THE REAL REAS ON WHY ONE ‘CAN’T CHANGE’


    YOUTH: Let’s hear it. What am I supposed to re-learn about Adler?
    PHILOSOPHER: When you look at your speech and conduct, and at other people’s speech and conduct, think about the goals that are hidden in them. This is a basic way of thinking in Adlerian psychology. YOUTH: I know—it’s ‘teleology’, right?
    PHILOSOPHER: Would you give a simple explanation of it?
    YOUTH: I will try. Regardless of what may have occurred in the past, nothing is determined by it. It does not matter if there are past traumas, either. Because human beings are not driven by past ‘causes’ but live according to present ‘goals’. Suppose, for example, the person who says, ‘My home environment was bad and that’s why I have a dark personality.’ This is a life lie. The truth is that person first has the goal of ‘I don’t want to get hurt by getting involved with other people,’ and in order to realise that goal, they choose a ‘dark personality’ that doesn’t get involved with anyone. Then, as an excuse for having themselves chosen such a personality, they bring up their past home environment. It’s something like that, right?
    YOUTH: In other words, we are not creatures who are determined by past events. Rather, we determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to those events.
    PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. YOUTH: And then, you said something like this: no matter what has occurred in your life until now, it has no bearing at all on how you live your life from now on. And that you, living here and now, are the one who decides your own life. So, did I get anything wrong? PHILOSOPHER: Thank you. No, you did not get anything wrong. We humans are not so fragile as to simply be at the mercy of past traumas. Adler’s ideas are based on the strong belief in human dignity and human potential that human beings can determine themselves at any time.
    YOUTH: Yes, I know that. It’s just that I cannot get past the strength of the causes. It’s hard to speak of everything as just being goals. Because, for example, even if I had the goal of ‘not wanting to be involved with other people’, there would have to be causes somewhere that gave rise to those goals. To me, that teleology is not an almighty truth, even if it is a revolutionary viewpoint. PHILOSOPHER: That is fine. Something might change through this dialogue here tonight, and something might not. Because that is for you to decide, and I will not force you. Now, please hear this as one way of thinking. We are beings who are capable of determining ourselves at any time. We are beings who can choose new selves. Yet it is not so easy to change oneself. One might have a strong wish to change but be unable to. Why is this? Can you tell me your opinion?
    YOUTH: Because one doesn’t really want to change? PHILOSOPHER: That about sums it up. And this is also connected to the question ‘What is change?’ If we go out on a limb and use an extreme expression, carrying out change is ‘death itself’. YOUTH: Death itself? PHILOSOPHER: Suppose, for example, that you are in distress over your life right now. Let’s say that you are wishing you could change yourself. But changing yourself means giving up on yourself until now, denying yourself until now and never again showing the face of yourself until now, as if you were sending it to its grave, in effect. Because once you have done that, you will be reborn as your new self at last. Now, regardless of how dissatisfied you may be with your current situation, can you choose death? Can you throw yourself into the bottomless darkness? This is not such an easy thing to talk about. That is why people do not try to change and why they want to feel okay with things as they are, no matter how tough life gets. And they end up living in search of ‘okay as I am’ ingredients in order to affirm their current situation. YOUTH: Hmm. PHILOSOPHER: So, when a person is actively trying to affirm ‘myself now’, what kind of tone do you think it will give to that person’s past? YOUTH: Um, in other words . . . PHILOSOPHER: There is only one answer. In short, it would be to sum up their past by saying, ‘I’ve been through a lot, but I’m fine with it.’YOUTH: In order to affirm now, one also affirms the past that was unhappy. PHILOSOPHER: Yes. The people you mentioned earlier, who convey their gratitude by saying, ‘Thank you very much for rebuking me so harshly back then.’ They are all actively trying to affirm ‘myself now’. As a result, their entire past turns into good memories. They are not going to recognise their authoritarian education with only those words of gratitude they conveyed to you. YOUTH: Since they want to feel, ‘I’m fine with this,’ their past turns into good memories. It’s intriguing. As an academic psychology, it is a very interesting line of inquiry. I cannot agree with your interpretations, however. Why, you ask? I am proof. Because I do not fit in this model at all! To this day, I am resentful of all the strict and unreasonable teachers I had in my years in middle school and high school, and, right or wrong, I am not grateful to them. There is no way that my school life, which was like prison time to me, could ever turn into good memories. PHILOSOPHER: That must be because you are not satisfied with ‘myself now’. YOUTH: What did you say? PHILOSOPHER: To put it more bluntly, in order to justify a ‘myself now’ that is far from ideal, you are painting your entire past the same shade of grey. You are trying to think of it as ‘that school’s fault’ or ‘because that teacher was there’. And then, you are trying to live in possibility: ‘If it had been the ideal school and I’d met the ideal teacher, I never would have ended up this way.’
    YOUTH: That’s . . . that’s way beyond rude! What grounds do you have to make such assumptions? PHILOSOPHER: Can you really say for sure that I am making assumptions? Because the question is not whether something happened in the past, but what meaning ‘myself now’ gives to that past. YOUTH: Retract that! What do you know about me? PHILOSOPHER: Look, in our world, ‘the past’ in the real sense of the word does not exist. It is just painted in an endless array of colours of ‘now’, each with its own interpretations. YOUTH: In this world, the past does not exist? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. The past is not something that cannot be regained. Rather, it simply and purely does not exist. Until one takes it that far, one cannot get any closer to the essence of teleology. YOUTH: Argh, this is exasperating! You make assumptions, and next you say, ‘the past does not exist’? You’re tossing out hole-filled falsehoods left and right, and then you’re trying to blow smoke. I’m going to have fun dredging the muck out of all those holes and throwing it right back at you!
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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