A brief explanation of the concept.
The first thing to understand is that change and the reasons we have to change is not just an issue that interests therapists, but everyone who has tried to change a habit or a behavior they’re not so crazy about. The way we understand motivation changed radically in 1981, when Carlo C. DiClemente and J.O. Prochaska introduced a five step model to understand the process of change. A brief lesson:
Precontemplation is our beginning, when you don’t see your behavior as a problem and assume everything is cool.
At contemplation, you may start to think a little bit about changing your behavior – you’ve maybe suffered some consequences, people may be annoyed with you.
Preparation is when you start trying small changes, and start making a plan for the bigger change.
Action is when you’re actually putting changes into practice.
Maintenance is the stage where…well, where you maintain the changes you’ve made.
Relapse is in there as well, which was and remains controversial – the idea that change is like pushing over a vending machine. You have to try a few times to get that sucker to tip over. After relapse, we’re usually back at precontemplation or contemplation, sometimes with an extra large dose of “guilt” over your “failure.”. You can read more in depth here (http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/stages-of-change/all/1/).
As anyone who has been around someone who is working to change behavior knows, we are always at action. We can see what needs to be done, we can see the behavior is causing problems, and we want to push for change RIGHT NOW! You keep saying you want to stop drinking – so stop! You say you don’t like being fat – go on a diet! It seems so simple, so clear to us. We think, you’ve been talking about this for a long time, so frickin’ do it already! Difficult to stop wishing someone else is as ready for change as you.
Now for practical application. If someone is not ready to change, is shaming them an appropriate way to encourage change? Education is the key first, but it has to be gentle application, to avoid the shame dynamic of “bad self.” Personal control is a part of bad habits, but there are scores of other factors influencing bad behavior, and to ignore the environment to focus on a person makes no sense, except to prevent widespread knowledge and anger about these environmental conditions. That may be a post for another day.
At the end of the day, some people may simply not be ready to change, at least not yet. And that’s normal. The sooner we acknowledge this, the lower our frustration levels will be, and the more likely it is we will see real, positive change.