According to one of the central dialectical tenets of DBT, change is the nature of life. Everything is in a constant state of change.
I can accept the idea of constant change and see it in the world all around me. Seasons change, children grow, friendships strengthen or grow more distant. We move, get older, experience health problems, fall in love, recover from sickness, lose loved ones, graduate from school and so on. But sometimes those things we most wish to change, seem to stay the same.
I recently listened to a radio program about people who desperately wanted someone in their life to change who were faced with the reality that this person was not going to change. In one example, a woman, who identified herself as a lesbian, desperately wanted to brother to change his view of her. He had become a born-again Christian and because of his religious beliefs, was unable to accept her lifestyle as valid. After years of estrangement, feeling rejected, invalidated and wishing he would change his beliefs so they could regain the close relationship they’d had as children, she accepted that her brother was never going to change.
Many people struggle with strained or conflicted relationships in which they wish the other person would change. We can spend years suffering as we try to encourage, force, teach, foster, persuade, inspire or otherwise urge this change. We might want someone to change for any number of reasons, for example, we may see the disastrous consequences when a loved one drinks or gambles too much, feel alienated by someone who has a different style of communication or see that someone struggling could feel better if they would simply see the world differently.
Which brings us to another concept central to DBT: that of acceptance.
When the woman in the story above accepted that her brother was never going to change his religious beliefs, something did change. Although she was still hurt by his views of her, when she accepted him as he was, she was able to have a relationship with him again. They were not close, as they had been growing up, but they were also not estranged.
She also no longer spent energy feeling anger towards him. Instead of trying to make him see her point-of-view, she focused on trying to understand him. In listening to and accepting him, as he was, she reconnected with him in simple everyday interactions. And aside from the fragile reconnection, she found that she no longer had to struggle with her own emotional response to his view of her. Instead she was able to focus on her own life and living in a way that was best for her.
Have you had to accept that something or someone you desperately want to change is not going to? Do you think that acceptance can lead to change? Do you agree with these two basic concepts in DBT, that of Acceptance and Change?