Existential Psychology

Trying To Make Others Change

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Most Of Us Are Resistant To Change

The irony is that most of us are pretty resistant to external attempts at changing us, which we equate with authoritarian control, but at the same time have no problem trying to make others change, which we equate with benevolence. What we call a gentle push in the right direction is experienced by the person we’re trying to help as an unwelcome violent shove.

Human Narcissim

It’s our inherent human narcissism that makes us perceive the exact same behavior and the exact same motivations for that behavior much differently when it emanates from us and into the external environment rather than into us from the external environment. When we try to make others change it’s ‘helpful’ ‘benevolent’ ‘rational’ ‘reasonable’. When others try to make us change it’s ‘unhelpful’ ‘mean spirited’ ‘irrational’ ‘unreasonable’.

So there’s a double standard there, but most of us are completely blind to it. What we’ve got to realize is that any meaningful change only has a real chance of success in the long-term when it’s undertaken due to a firm internal intention, not due to various forms of external persuasion. The sensed expansion of individual freedom must be the basis.

Freedom and Happiness

Actually when we try to make others change the underlying reason for it is not to expand their freedom and happiness but to expand our own freedom and happiness. While we tell ourselves we want them to change because the new set of behaviors would make them better off (which very well might be true), the real motivation behind that plausible rationalization is that we believe the new set of behaviors will make us better off emotionally, psychologically, or materially.

Truly Helping Others

If we really are interested in helping others change we have to shrug off our narcissism in order to see things from their point of view rather than our own so that we can offer the right kind of insight that helps them come to their own good reasons for implementing their change rather than simply implanting our good reasons for implementing their change. We have to remember that nothing will change until they decide it needs to, and until that happens they’ll perceive our attempts to help them as authoritarian control and will probably rebel against it.