Can we REALLY change?
Can people truly change? Can we literally UNthink ourselves, and all our conditioning, and become who we want and hope to be?
The answer is YES! It happens all the time, and of course it also doesn’t happen – for a variety of reasons.
So what ARE the key ingredients needed to create change – real, sustainable change, change that actually sticks?
Often our past experiences and personal history holds us to ransom, making us feel as if our identity and way of being in the world is set in stone. But recent neuroscience research has armed us with new evidence that we can literally transform ourselves from the inside out, AND from the outside in, by creating new neural pathways in the brain. We can even change how our genes express themselves!
SO, instead of women being held hostage to their social conditioning or to a personal history that feeds into self-defeating tendencies, women can now consciously choose environments that support them to thrive. And we have now the brain-science to help us to do this!
The research is clear: Genes are not fully coded (that is, locked into place), and can be altered through exposure to the environment. The environment works a bit like a key that helps to open or close parts of the brain, as well as our genes.
So, how do we do it?
We need to create what is known as “an enriched environment”, where the following 4 factors are present: Safety, Attachment, Control and Motivation.
1. A Safe Environment
The first ingredient is Safety, which provides an essential foundation for the following 3 ingredients to build upon: Attachment, Control and Motivation.
A safe environment, both physically and emotionally, is paramount for grounding any type of sustainable change. Without safety we have a brain that’s wired to survive and not thrive, amplifying fear-based neural patterns that can interrupt Control, Attachment and Motivation, sabotaging our best efforts to create change in our life. Constantly feeling unsafe is exhausting to our nervous system and can lead to burn-out, not to mention a host of other other issues, which I discuss in my other articles and public talks.
Fundamentally, an emotionally and psychologically safe environment is a loving, kind and
supportive environment. Whether the environment only has one other person in it or constitutes a family, community or entire organisation, essentially the feeling is one of support, security and acceptance and of being valued.
Attachment is a basic human need. We all need to feel positively connected with others who care for us and who support our ongoing learning and growth.
As women, we tend to be more relationally-oriented, which is due to many factors, including social conditioning. This relational-orientation has both a positive and negative side to it. On the negative side, it can lead to being too focused on others, resulting in people-pleasing, putting others first, overworking to prove our value, being too accommodating during conflict, overriding our own needs as unimportant and being very sensitive to criticism.
On the positive side, women tend to place greater emphasis on love, connection, support and belonging, and have an increased awareness of others. This relational sensitivity actually means that women are often less rigid and more fluid and adaptable, and therefore more change-ready, especially when they feel safe and supported.
This capacity and willingness to change, adapt and grow is one of the main reasons I choose to specialise in working with women: Give them the right conditions of safety and support and women thrive, blossom and transform.
Control is considered one of our most fundamental human needs. Having control over our environment, or at least the perception of control, gives us a sense of well-being. This is because when we feel we’re able to do what we need to do when we need to do it. This doesn’t mean being a “control freak” or being inflexible or needing to have everything go our way, but rather the feeling that we have options and choices about how to handle things, including challenges and differences with others.
Finally, there is motivation. The basic human premise is that we are motivated to seek pleasurable experiences and avoid unpleasant ones. This gears our motivational system (brain) to avoid or approach things, depending on how we perceive them. Is it good or bad for us? Will it be pleasurable or painful? One pathway takes us toward learning, growing and thriving, while the other keeps us fearful, avoidant and stuck at a certain level of experience – while we may avoid pain, we don’t really grow.
My key message for you: Do what you love, for this fosters optimal brain conditions. Grinding through your work, hating what you do and not feeling connected to meaning or purpose will tend to stimulate avoidance, stress and fear, placing your health at risk in the long term. NOT following your bliss, heart’s desire or true calling really needs to come with a health warning: “Only making fear-based choices leads to a narrow, stressful life!”
SO, where in your life could you follow your heart or bliss, even a little more?
I kindly and lovingly support you to take some time this week to check-in with yourself and think about your environment and support systems. How safe and positive are they? Is something more needed to support your change-direction? Is something missing for you, or is there something you need to say “NO” to that will enrich your environment by making it more safe for you? Do you have enough helpful and loving support to thrive?
If you’d like to be supported by me in your change journey, or book me for a speaking engagement, contact firstname.lastname@example.org