The Principle of Paradoxical Change states that the more we try to change ourselves the more stuck we will be as a result, and that when we stop fighting against the way that we are then change will happen all by itself. That’s the only way genuine change can happen.
When we try to make change happen then this is of course control and any change that happens as a result of control (or ‘forcing’) isn’t real change at all. It’s only the appearance of change, like an act that we are putting on. It takes a lot of energy to maintain this act and because we’re putting all our energy and attention into it no genuine healing can take place. We’ve ‘jinxed ourselves’, in other words.
What more, when we force change this creates an unstable artificial situation which is always going to rebound on us at some future point in time. It may rebound straightaway or it may not rebound for days or weeks or even longer.
Forcing (or ‘denying’) locks us into a very demoralizing cycle – the cycle of ‘up’ and ‘down’. When the emotional pain is pushed away then we allow ourselves to believe that we’re free from it and so we feel euphoric; when it resurfaces however then not only is there the same old emotional pain to deal with, we are also plunged into despair.
We create the ‘up and down cycle’ by not working with our emotional pain, therefore. Dealing with our pain doesn’t mean ‘doing something to it’ (or ‘with it’) – that’s just resistance and ‘resistance’ is the opposite of working with it. Usually we react to our emotional pain by pushing it away (or distracting ourselves in some way from it) which is – as we have just said – how we get locked into the euphoria / dysphoria cycle.
The way we work with emotional pain is by gaining insight into this cycle, along with insight into how resistance perpetuates our situation. “What we resist persists’, says Carl Jung. We learn to spot our automatic resistance and as soon as we spot ourselves ‘resisting’ this awareness in itself brings us out of Purposeful (or ‘controlling’) Mode and into Reflective Mode. When we see that we’re forcing this takes the steam out of our forcing, in other words. We spontaneously become more peaceful – we become more peaceful without any need for counterproductive forcing.
When our emotional pain is acknowledged – without any judging or blaming – then it naturally expends itself. By allowing the pain to express itself we take away the conflict and the sensation of being blocked’. This doesn’t mean that the pain goes away straightaway (because whatever pain is there needs to be felt, and there could be a lot of it) but what it does mean is that the natural healing process is allowed to take place.
Normally, our ‘allegiance’ is to ‘How we think things should be’ (or ‘How we think we should be’); when we gain psychological insight however this orientation changes and – instead – our allegiance is to ‘How things actually are’. Our orientation is now towards the truth, in other words, rather than towards some kind of goal or desired outcome. ‘Goals’ have no place here, therefore; goals have no place because goals = controlling, which is our normal way of responding to difficulty.
Normally, we are ‘addicted to controlling’ and addictions – of whatever sort – always take us to a bad place. When our allegiance is to ‘the way things are’ then this is not an addiction (it’s not an addiction because there is no need involved). Our allegiance is simply to the truth, whatever that might turn out to be. This is a much simpler situation – no methods, no cleverness, no ‘forcing’ is needed. We don’t have any goal here – whatever the truth turns out to be, we will acknowledge it.
‘It is the truth that liberates, not your effort to be free’, says Krishnamurti. Our struggling against the truth of our situation is what imprisons us – we’re trapped by our own struggling and the logic of our struggling tells us never to back down, never to give up. The ‘logic of our struggling’ tells us that if we struggle hard enough then we will eventually be free. This is seeing things completely backwards however; it is seeing things backwards since it is the struggling (or the ‘resisting’) that is actually trapping us…