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Sir Isaac Newton and his Law’s of Psychology?

By Charity Hagains MA LPC-S

In the therapy world we usually talk with our clients about how they can best gather momentum for achieving their goals, which is a professional way of saying, “How can we best kick you in the butt and get you moving?” Because that’s what therapy is really about…forward progress.

We begin with the “crisis” that brought you into the room. Let’s face it, none of us make a move until we really have to. We wait until the last minute, until we absolutely can’t take it anymore, until our iPhone refuses to update itself and we are forced to buy a new one! It’s human nature.

We do not make difficult or uncomfortable transformations in the midst of happiness. No, we make profound life changes when our backs are against the wall and we believe that the uncomfortable or difficulty we are about to thrust ourselves into “has to be better than this.”

Here is where I make it sound like I really understood that physics class I took. Newton’s 3 Laws of Physics give us an incredible understanding of why we all struggle against change, how change is achieved and why reactions to change are so complicated.

Newton’s First Law: When viewed in an inertial reference frame, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force (thank you for the wording Wikipedia)

What this means from a psychological standpoint: We remain in our pre-determined patterns (resisting change) until a crisis forces our change upon us. The crisis is not always painful, but it is usually uncomfortable enough to motivate us towards change. This is where making the call to meet with a professional is so valuable. We are trained at helping people push through this moment and move in their desired direction.

Newton’s Second Law: Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).

What this means from a psychological standpoint: This is were we see why change is so difficult. Small changes require less motivation and effort…obviously. Big changes on the other hand…those suckers often feel impossible. Which is why we focus on small changes that accumulate over time into big changes. Example: I want to get fit (big change). Solution: Break down the overall goal into smaller ones. Replace one soft drink with a glass of water (small change). Over time we increasingly add small changes creating (drum roll please) BIG CHANGE!

Newton’s Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite re- action.

What this means from a psychological standpoint: This is my least favorite part of change. So often we make grand changes that benefit us in a way we didn’t even know they could, yet we fall back into our previous patterns puzzled by why the change didn’t last. Too often I hear people talk about how they “don’t follow through” or “flake out” in their process of change. Rather than place the blame on your shoulders I offer you a scapegoat…Sir Isaac Newton.

This law is why sustainability can be so complicated. When we set a goal, move towards that goal and ultimately make the change, there is always a reaction that takes place.This push back can take many forms so it is difficult to pin point where the hurdle will come from and thus prepare for the stumbling block.

As you push your self forward you can practically feel the crisis pushing you backward. Give up coffee, all you want is coffee. Stop checking emails in the evening, feel anxious about what is looming in your inbox. There is always a pushback. Rather than trying to get out of that and pretend it doesn’t exist, try instead using the power of acceptance. Accept that you will become temporarily hyper-focused on something or anxious about something or whatever uncomfortable emotion is attached to this change. It’s okay and that uncomfortable feeling is part of the process. Don’t try to run from it (that’s what pushes you back into old patterns),but rather allow yourself to feel it, sink into it, acknowledge it, talk about it, write about it, whatever you can do to experience it and lessen the power that it has over you. Therapists are particularly valuable during this stage. Having support on your path is an important resource to help stay motivated towards your goal.

Whatever transformation you have been wanting for, it is achievable. All you really need is a first step, that “external force” to propel you towards change. Best part is you don’t have to do it alone. Give us a call and we can walk with you on your path, helping you enjoy the journey that is change.

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