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post #3 of (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 09:15 PM
Benevolent Dictator
truant's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Cislandia
Gender: Transgender
Age: 46
Posts: 8,439
My Mood: Brooding
It's extremely hard to help people. I talk to my sister almost every day on the phone and have been for years. Her life is a trainwreck. But most of her problems have, in the opinions of most people, simple solutions. Yet despite my and other people's (my parents, her therapists, her friends, etc.) countless attempts to reason with her, absolutely nothing changes.

The simple, brutal fact is that a person will not change unless they are convinced that the change will lead to a reduction in their pain or increase in their pleasure AND that the change is possible. This is why we say "people have to want to change". "Want" here means that: 1. they are convinced that the change will make their life better, and 2. that they are capable of achieving the change. If a person does not believe that there are better states (because "nothing is worth doing") or that such a state is inaccessible (because "I'm useless") then the change is not possible in their opinion, which is why they don't act.

The entire art of therapy is about finding a way to convince a person that a new way of looking at a problem, or a new way of responding to a problem, is both highly desirable and highly attainable. Iow, if you want to effect change, you have to effect change from within their own model of the world -- at the level of their personal values and self-perceived capabilities. You have to use their own reason and desires against them so that they are inwardly compelled by the evidence they already possess. This can be an extremely slow and tedious process and requires a good deal of sensitivity on the part of the therapist. Most advice falls on deaf ears because they don't share the values of the person giving it and/or they don't have the same opinion of their own capabilities.

My dad is firmly in the "you have to let people learn from their mistakes" camp. And yet every one of my siblings is a mess. They have, at various times, been disowned, homeless, institutionalized, and imprisoned. I was kicked out at 18 so that I could learn how to take care of myself. (And you know what my life is like.) The problem with letting people learn from their mistakes is that not everyone has the same resources. So while many people (probably most) do learn how to be accomplished and independent, because they have the necessary abilities (or sheer good fortune) many people learn the opposite -- that they are utter failures. And the more often they fail, the more thoroughly they learn it. And once they learn that they do not have the ability to succeed, they will lose the motivation to change. Because change, in their opinion, is impossible. At that point, they are only concerned about numbing the pain they feel they have to live with. Which is why they turn to alcohol, drugs, food, porn, etc.

@andy1984 I love Chekhov. But I haven't actually read that story.

Wishing she had a mindblowing GUI
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