Often we have things about ourselves that we would like to change or to achieve, and sometimes go a long way towards changing them, however something can stop us or hold us back. This is often because there is a part of us that gains from whatever the situation is. This can be really hard to acknowledge and also to not judge. So as you read this, you may find that you connect to some of it, or a bit of it, but don’t beat yourself up; it’s ok. Equally, if you read this and see these or this is someone you know, think of it as giving you insight and empathy, rather than using it to judge them.
Every situation, behaviour, or emotion we want to change will have been, at some point, of use to us, in some way, for some reason. The behaviour, situation or emotion can then become something we want to change (or say we want to change), but that benefit may still linger, even if 90% of you wants to change it.
This can apply to anything from habits, anxieties, phobias, illnesses, emotional responses to people, behaviours… so many things.
So what exactly do I mean by gains, or benefits? (or, to use other phrases ‘hidden agendas’ or ‘secondary gains’).
Someone who smokes may want to stop, but might be scared of losing friends, or not coping with stress, or of losing his/her identity, or something else. So the gains might be that the person feels they have secure friendships, or knows they can cope with stress, or knows who they are.
Someone who might be over eating may want to lose weight, but may find comfort in food, or may want to be bigger to be seen, or something else. The gains, for these, might be knowing that they can get comfort from something and not have another way to get it, or wanting to make sure they are remembered so they won’t be lonely, or something different.
Someone who may not be able to move on from a relationship and want to be able to move on, may hold onto anger as a form of communication towards the ex, or to use it to ‘make them pay’, or it is protecting the pain inside, or something else. The gains might be to make sure that other people know how they are feeing, or to maks sure the other person knows how hurt they are, or to keep themselves together and not fall apart, or something different.
Someone who has social anxiety may want to be able to celebrate, but may use it as a reason to not do things they don’t want to (rather than saying ‘I don’t want to go’) or to control the location or distance where they meet, or something else. The gains might be to avoid offending people, or to have some control over a situation or to seek reassurance that people do want to spend time with them, or something different.
The gains that someone might feel are endless and it’s really very ok and common. If, however, you do want to move through this, and to heal and change whatever it is, then you need to find and identify the part who does have the ‘secondary gain’ and work with it, to allow you to move to where you want to. If you’re not yet ready to do that, that’s also ok, but, by the very nature of reading this, you’re potentially more aware than you were before.
This self awareness of the gains you may experience will be useful for your journey and also to allow you to be true to yourself and avoid the inner conflict that arises when different parts of us want different things.
And, it goes without saying, that therapy can be an excellent space and place to explore and work with the different parts, and the different gains and benefits, as well as the reasons to change and what the benefits of that will be.
So, think about what you gain from a situation you have that you also want to change… It will likely be uncomfortable, but will be worth thinking about.