Paradoxical Theory of Change

A tool used to describe change is often referred to as the “change curve”. In psychology this is sometimes referred to as the Kubler-Ross cycle, after the psychiatrist who studied death, dying and grief. She came up with this depiction to illustrate how people adapt to loss. It’s widely used among many disciples to help people understand that there is a process of adapting, and growing through a big change. This curve is essentially, the process of living life. Any experience in life, can transpose this process to it – be it an organizational change, a change in relationships, an addition to a family, a new team member, the loss of a loved one, an injury. This process helps us understand how we adapt through something new.

How do we go through this process? Most people struggle going through the process. Often people’s reactions to change aren’t to the change itself, but the process of change. We resist, we deny, we get stuck in emotion. However, the only way out, is through. This is what is often referred to as the “paradoxical theory of change”.

Change occurs when one becomes what s/he is, not when s/he tries to become what s/he is not.

Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change them, but it takes place if one takes the time and effort to be what they are – to be fully invested in their current position. In this way change occurs by surrender. Again the paradox is that change doesn’t occur by “trying”, coercion, or persuasion, or by insight, interpretation or any other active means.  Rather, change can occur when you abandon, at least for the moment, what you would like to become and attempts to be what you are. The premise is that one must stand in one place in order to have firm footing to move and that it is difficult or impossible to move without that footing.

Resilience is…

building capacity to stay with the process of change; a skill you have to practice, and in every moment of change you are called to practice.

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