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How Does Change Happen? By Sharon Melnick, MD

Posted on Friday, July 26th at 1:45 pm

 

Sharon Melnick, MD

Life belongs to the living and he who lives must be prepared to change.

-Goethe

 I have studied change the last 30 years while pursuing growth and development, healing and happiness for my patients – and myself. And I am often struck how change can take a minute or a lifetime.  I am awed by transcendent moments that are remembered always as clarity or a “peak experience.” And humbled by the ordinary life that teaches us, changes us, imperceptibly, but persistently.

We are programmed for change. Every cell in our body replaces itself. Some very fast – like skin cells in the matter of days, or the lining of our stomach counted in hours. Some very slowly – our heart, our bones. Change is the very bedrock of growth and development. We marvel at the rapid change of infant to toddler to talker to school child. Research says the brain has stopped structural development after age 28. But the activity of the brain is ceaseless, changing with every new breath.   Change is built into our stages of life – from youth through the inexorable decline of old age and dying. And then even dead things change.

Chinese medicine teaches that illness occurs when the free flow of chi through the meridians of the body is blocked. Over each 24 hours of our day, each meridian has 2 hours when chi there is as it peak, and another 2 hours when chi has ebbed. Left unhindered, this rhythm of chi sustains our life force, Jing. We become healthier and more skillful as we learn to live in balance with this inborn rhythm. When an obstacle of disharmony occurs, it creates a blockade or dam behind which chi pools and becomes stagnant, then sour, and ultimately putrid. Healing occurs when the obstacle is removed and the correct flow and rhythm of chi is restored and the putrid chi is purified by its own free flow.

Effective psychotherapy occurs when we identify our obstacles to change, the neurotic inhibitions and prohibitions that keep us stuck and suffering. The blockades are unconscious and often require a very good mirror for us to see them. The therapist becomes that mirror, showing us what is in our blind spot, what we hold in plain view but refuse to see, the beliefs and thoughts that do not serve us particularly well, but we feel powerless to abandon. We remain oblivious to their presence despite accumulated debris and repetitive shadows. Therapy requires we look for the denial that blinds us to false beliefs or outdated sense of self. Name our resistance to the Life Force that requires we change. What is our opposition preventing life from teaching us and allowing us to be more skillful and powerful?

Change requires that we let go of one way of being and accept the unknown results of another. Our habits no longer serve us. If we want to feel differently, we must do something different. The benefits of neurotic fixation include our lives becoming very predictable. Accepting the seduction and reward of change allows life to become more surprising, more magical. The Life Force can get to us and help us. Our soul is free to make its unique journey. We are privileged to the full experience of being Spirit incarnate. If we use our energy to prevent change, we end up with a life over filled with almost empty shampoo bottles in the bathroom, and a long list of social obligations that bring us little pleasure and require a lot of effort.

When we are willing to surrender being pluripotential stem cells, accepting that at some point, we must choose between being a doctor or a lawyer, a traveler or a nester, a saver or a spender, then we find more success because we are not trying to hold onto that which no longer can be, while in pursuit of what will become us next. We choose our life, moment to moment, already accepting all possible outcomes of that choice. We experience meaning and aliveness. We are changing.

They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.

Confucius