The Curious Paradox of Change

Change defined is to make or become different. Concerning people and personality, it involves transforming our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors.

Many people run into a roadblock on their journey to change; growing discouraged and even self-deprecating because they begin to believe they are incapable of changing in the ways they want.

Often people need the help and encouragement of friends, family, or even a counselor, because they have tried to do it on their own and have been unable to make any noticeable or, what they may determine, as acceptable progress toward their goal.

This is okay. Through my own growth and change process of becoming who I wanted to be and through the work I have done with clients in therapy, I discovered an essential truth. 

Very rarely is the issue that one cannot change. The real issue is that they haven’t accepted themselves as they are at that point in their journey. 

The American psychologist, Carl Rogers, said “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change”


Carl Jung, another pioneer in the mental health field, proposed a concept called individuation. Individuation is a process a person must go through in order to fully integrate all aspects of their psyche into a unified whole. One aspect of this process is called Shadow work. And work it is, indeed. 

Jung termed the dark or negative sides of our psyche the Shadow. The Shadow includes the things about ourselves and the world we have deemed immoral, unethical, or unacceptable by one standard or another, thus our psyche attempts to reject the reality of their existence by shoving them into our unconscious.

Assimilation of the shadow means acknowledging and accepting that ethical and moral shortcomings are a natural part of who we are. It makes us human.

This is important because we are talking about change. Before change can occur, one must become familiar with the aspects of the self one wants to change. Unsurprisingly, the things we often seek to change are parts of ourselves we don’t necessarily like or find acceptable. If we liked it, why would we try to change it? 

This is not to say you should or need to like all the potentially nasty and hurtful things you have done or could do. It is instead a call to action to begin to acknowledge and recognize just how full your human potential is for both the most wondrous pleasures and joy, as well as the darkest despairs and miseries the world has to offer. 

We as humans are not unlike the rest of the natural world. Nature is made up of dualities and we are surely more familiar with them than you might expect. Symbols of these dualities have been instilled in our culture for thousands of years and, if taken notice of, they can help us relate to ourselves in a very human way.

Consider the yin and yang, one of the more ubiquitous symbols. Having its roots in Taoist philosophy and religion, the yin and yang portrays how seemingly opposite forces may actually be inexplicably interconnected, inseparable, and dependent on one another in the natural world. 

There cannot be good without bad. There cannot be masculinity without femininity. To be holy requires that which is evil. 

In the light, there is also dark. In the dark there is also light. Light allows objects to cast shadows while shadows give proof that both the object and light exist.

We began by talking about change. In change, there is struggle. It is the struggle that gives credence that change is possible because it shows that you are moving toward something new. One cannot change without struggle and the struggle shows that one is changing.

Find opportunities to take notice of yourself and find that you are all too human. As the old adage goes, make friends with your enemies. Become familiar with who you are now and who you want to be, for all the good and bad. Do this and you may begin to find some peace. You may even be surprised by how naturally you begin to change.