Abby's Blog

Creating Conscious Behavioral Change and Transformation

I get excited about behavioral change and transformation. Call me crazy, but it is so meaningful, awe-inspiring, and fun to empower people to take the steps to expand their level of awareness, which motivates them to embark on this journey of conscious behavioral change and transformation.



Transformation is more than behavioral change. When we only change our behaviors without addressing the deeper layers of our unconscious, there is a possibility of a reversal, a return to an earlier pattern of behavior—a relapse, so to speak. When lasting transformation occurs, by contrast, there is an internalized shift. We have moved to a new and deeper experience of being, closer to our essence or true nature. We have grown larger and freer as a result of our experience of life. It is no longer possible to regress to a smaller, more limited sense of self. It is like the butterfly trying to return to the chrysalis—it simply can’t happen

While behavioral change can begin to happen immediately, it takes more time for the kind of full transformation that results in the permanent cessation of self-defeating behaviors, when we can look back at a behavior and say, “Amazing, I don’t do that anymore. Shifts can begin immediately as we become aware of a behavior we want to change---but the Aware Ego Process, the goal of the Voice Dialogue technology that I wrote about in my last blog, which leads us up the mountain to transformation may take longer. Indeed, depending on the complexity of the defense structure we needed to survive, it can take up to two years, if we really focus on the process of transforming a particular behavior. As we navigate the twists and turns up this consciousness course, the tools that were acquired during the first stages of life-lesson therapy, mapped out in LASTING Transformation: A Guide to Navigating Life’s Journey , will help us climb higher, as will the qualities of patience and compassion. Attaining lasting transformation is truly an adventure of a lifetime.

A Client’s Experience of Behavioral Change and Transformation

What happened to me in therapy has changed my life forever. How do I put into words a process that saved my life, without losing objectivity and reducing the words to pure gratitude? What happened to me is so powerful and close to my heart that it is difficult to talk or write about it. But write about it I must: It would be a disservice not to let people know that the process works and can change your life.

While thinking about my life, especially the part that involved sailing, I realized that what happened to me was nothing short of a sea change, a total transformation. I had been a sailor for most of my adult life and so putting it in this perspective made a lot of sense to me. So here goes. And remember: This is a story about the healing power of psychotherapy when practiced by a skilled and caring therapist.

I was brought up in a Catholic orphanage and learned early on that the way to survive was to become invisible. I learned never to be the focus of a person in authority; in my case, that meant the nuns or the civilian prefect. Discipline was maintained by corporal punishment and meted out without regard for innocence or guilt, but rather proximity. Being invisible allowed me to escape the severe corporal punishment and in later life repress my feelings of shame, guilt, and unworthiness brought on by being abandoned after my mother died.

For the next five decades after leaving the orphanage, I ricocheted through life, leaving emotional scars on everyone foolish enough to enter my private life. I failed miserably in three marriages and never made a friend. But I was successful in my professional life. I realized that I had no social skills and therefore had to rely on being more knowledgeable and better prepared than any of my peers. This brought me a grudging respect and a certain measure of financial success, and allowed me to remain anonymous as a person. I rejected every attempt at intimacy, expressions of love or friendship, and was passionate in protecting my shame, guilt, and unworthiness. Through all these years, I hated my father for abandoning me, and rejected my religion for the harsh treatment I received during my childhood. I relied totally on myself and rejected anyone who got too “close” to my emotional self. I made it into retirement alone, miserable but intact---or so I thought.

While preparing my sailboat for a trip to the Caribbean, where I would get hired to captain the boat for people, and start a new phase of my life, I had an accident that resulted in the loss of one of my legs. Overnight I became a disabled person with all the ramifications and connotations associated with a physical disability. As a person who was emotionally invisible, this was something that I could not deal with. My invisibility disappeared overnight. I was “reduced” to a wheelchair and for the first time in my life, I was totally visible. I had been “outed” in a most significant way. I had no defense for this most obvious of conditions. In my “cold gray light of dawn moment,” I seriously considered ending it all. I believe it was the incredible care, both physical and emotional, that I received during my three months in the rehabilitation hospital that finally swayed me to reject this option and that gave me the strength to make the phone call that would transform my life. A therapist whom I knew by acquaintance and reputation agreed to take me on in spite of the mountains of baggage that I dragged into the therapy room.

I have now been in weekly therapy for almost five years. I am still disabled, but my emotional self, my soul, my heart, and my understanding of who I am has all been changed forever. I am now able to live without the fear of being found unworthy. The intense anxiety of being found out, which interfered with my getting close to anyone, no longer plagues me. The shame of my existence has been replaced with a worthiness I never knew existed. I have replaced cynicism with awareness and caring about other people. The guilt, which isolated me from intimacy, no longer holds me prisoner. The father I hated is now remembered with sorrow, understanding, and sadness at not having had the chance to know or love him. I have accepted my disability.

How did all this happen? No, it is not a fairy tale! It happened because I was blessed with a skilled and caring therapist. A therapist who accepted me as I was, and who applied her skill to my situation using all the processes at her disposal to bring the “Inner Child” I had been protecting out into the open, finally allowing me to understand the how and why of my wanting to be “Invisible.” She is the first person I have ever trusted and through this trust she has gently peeled away all the layers of my defense mechanisms. She has led me down the path of awareness and worthiness, helped me find my spiritual self, enabled me to know that I mattered and was a good person. These are not simple matters. They were at the heart of my unexamined life. I am now able, for the first time in my life, to accept love and intimacy and return them in kind. There is a new intensity to my life, a life now worth living, as I share my life with and care about other people. I am now able to trust and take the risk of allowing someone to get close to me. It is now an examined life. I am by no means perfect, I still have pangs of fear at exposing myself but in spite of this I now move forward and take the risk and that makes all the difference. I have undergone a “Lasting Transformation.”