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Remedial Versus Generative Change

David Rosales strives to create meaning in a universe of possibilities.

It's all a matter of how you look at things

It's all a matter of how you look at things

Facing Challenges

Say you didn't like the direction in which your life was heading. That what you saw around you was not what you would like for your future. And that the people you are meeting were not the objects of your admiration.

Some people would say that this does not matter, that as long as you have people around you to support you when times were hard, to lend you a shoulder to cry on, and as long as you had a full belly and had lots of entertainment, you should consider yourself lucky.

But, you may feel differently about the whole matter.

If you were to decide to go forth in earnest with the project of changing your life, then, depending on who you would ask, you would get different answers as to how to go about doing it.

You could try doing one thing and another on different days, but unless you commit yourself fully to a course of action, nothing much will change in your life.

And you feel this in your gut. It tugs at you every time you witness those things you detest, every time you hear the ugly words and voices you wish were not in your life, every time your body goes cold from anxiety...

There are two basic ways of totally committing to change, one that represents the old mode of thinking, and another one that opens the way to the future and the remaking of your total self.

Remedial Change

Remedial change focuses on fixing what is broken.

If you noticed that you are too messy and would love to see more order around the house, then you would focus on pushing that into reality.

If you heard others speaking about your bad manners and you wanted to be perceived as more agreeable to others, then you would put your effort into improving those manners.

Every plan for action within this domain follows the two steps of finding problems and providing solutions to them. A bit like plugging holes. It's only that you are not literally plugging holes. And what might appear to some as a problem may only give that impression under a particular kind of light.

Going deeper into issues may reveal that undesirable behaviors are the symptoms of underlying psychological states which should instead be the focus of attention.

That is not to say that you should not clean your room. In fact, remedial change has a lot of power when it comes to decluttering your mind. Tantamount to wiping clean the glass of a dirty window, doing so would give you a clearer view of the surroundings.

But remedial change only goes so far. The underlying concepts of meaning, purpose, direction, and desire are never properly addressed.

It is not surprising, then, that many therapies and philosophies that take this route see modern moderate religious attitudes as the best solution to many of humankind's existential problems.

Religion provides a set of rules to constantly follow, a never-ending list of good acts to perform, and an admittedly unachievable ideal to strive for. This keeps you busy and fulfilled as long as you perform, but it does not go beyond the task and distraction.

This fosters the all-too-popular opinion that life is suffering and that it is in struggling that we give meaning to it. It tells people that feeling oppressed and miserable, empty and alone are part and parcel of the human condition.

But, could there be another path?

Generative Change

Fortunately for all of us, developments in psychology and therapy in the latter half of the 20th century brought to light the fact that the above view is only an option. We do not need to suffer, whatever it is we are going through, and we can choose what we make of things

It all starts by understanding that what you feel and think always have their origin in some external output. That is, you experience something, perceive it through your senses, and then you generate feelings based on previous experience and evaluations, and so you generate an opinion that may in turn generate more feelings.

This cascade of internal changes eventually culminates in action on your part, actions which then get more input to your senses. But even if you did not take action, the internal processes would go on, and the input would never cease. For that is what being alive means, to be conscious and to perceive.

If you stay still long enough instead of obsessing about one thing or another, and if you allowed your feelings and thoughts regarding something you witnessed, heard or done, you would soon realize that they will settle down or fade away on their own.

These things are not your mind, they do not have to define what goes on inside you, nor what you decide to do.

Generative change starts from this Eureka moment when you open your eyes and see the light of reason as if for the first time in your life. The silence that ensues is as sweet as any music you have ever heard.

It all boils down to this: you can decide what things mean to you, how you feel about what's going on in your life, and you can completely reinvent yourself.

But reinventing yourself does not mean you can disregard reality as it is. What you see in the present moment is still your parting point.

What it does mean is that you can start cleaning your room because you have a clear vision, and not that you clean your room because you would like to feel better.

Generative change offers you the opportunity to feel and act completely differently about what goes on in the world and your surroundings by choosing to give them a different meaning, to hear more positive and possibility-laden implications in the words you have been hearing all your life.

And you can do this while remaining at peace and silent. Letting the desires and actions of others slide uneventfully around you as you walk calmly up to the place you want to occupy.

The dawning of a new life is within your grasp. All you need to do is reach out and take it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.