6 Stages of Change

Today I finished a continuing education course (CE) called Behavioral Issues in Dentistry. I looked for more clinically based courses, but I’m mostly interested in people. In our behavior, beliefs, evolution. In our ascension as human beings. Dentistry is just the career I chose to explore that, and honestly, it was a good choice because our patients have a lot of fear, and our industry has a lot of programming. There’s control, the need to fix things, people pleasing, perfectionism, etc etc. I’m generalizing here, but this is what I’ve seen, what I’ve read about, and what I’ve experienced. 

This CE reminded me that we are always wavering between different phases in our lives, particularly if we’re constantly aiming higher for ourselves. It listed the five stages of change:

1. Pre-contemplation
2. Contemplation
3. Preparation
4. Action 
5. Maintenance

On my personal journey, I saw this as:  

1. Shit, this isn’t really working for me.

2. Should I do something?

3. What do I do?

4. Alright, I’m going for it.

5. Okay, this is better. 

Then there’s relapse. This can happen in an instant. (First, let’s clarify that relapse isn’t just about addiction, it’s about changed behavior). It can feel like you’ve been working and pushing yourself up this hill (metaphorically), but all you did was a big loop and you’re exactly where you started. It’s the ‘three steps forward and two steps back’ feeling. I had this moment a couple years ago, when I thought I’d reached a level  of mastery over my emotional responses. When I felt an emotion, I turned inward. I questioned it, the stories I had, the truth in it, and then I made a conscious response. I was in maintenance, and life was great. But then, when a big enough trigger came around for me, I snapped so quickly that I couldn’t even remember the process I’d been practicing. I was devastated. Less about the situation at hand, and more so about the feeling that I hadn’t changed at all.

This course hit home with the reminder that: “Relapse should not be viewed as failure, but as part of the ongoing process of growth.” It’s okay to take a step back. Growth is non-linear, and sometimes feeling that regression is a kick in the ass. When you’re back where you started and it doesn’t feel right to you, that’s just confirmation that this version of you has expired. This isn’t you anymore, but there is a better, higher version of you that is present. That old version of you is just fighting for its life, it wants to be held onto. Love it, thank it for getting you to where you are, and let it go.