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Deborah WIlson

Deborah Chelette-Wilson

STRATEGY SESSION

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A Life Of Love And Balance Blog

Getting Lost in the Contemplation Stage

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Deborah Chelette Wilson life coach family counselor Sxchg 3264 296x300"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to blossom." - Anais Nin

Monica is in her early thirties. Her seven-year marriage had ended the day she wanted to surprise her husband, John, for lunch. She went to his office, and walked in on him and another woman.

Her dream of being a stay-at-home wife and mother ended that day. 

 

She got the house and child support in the divorce settlement, but learned that she could not afford the electric bill let alone the house payment. She put the house on the market, but before a buyer could be found the bank foreclosed. John had skipped out of town without keeping his promise to make the house payments until it sold.

After the foreclosure, Monica was desperate. She had no money, and no way to support herself and her son, David. Child support payments never came, so she and her son were forced to move in with her parents, which was something that she said she would never do.

Though grateful for a place to recover, she felt lost and wasn’t sure what to do. It was a struggle working at the local pizza place at night, and going to school during the day to finish classes to get her teaching certificate. As a teacher, she would be able to have time off with her son, allowing her the opportunity to bond with him.

However, as many teachers learn the day they start teaching, when the kids go home, a teacher’s day is not done. The pressure to make sure students pass state-mandated testing keeps teachers after hours either tutoring or learning the latest rule changes before they have adapted to the old ones. By the time Monica gets home she is emotionally depleted and has little to give her son. The best of her energy goes to other people’s children, leaving her with little to none leftover for her own child. Luckily, her mother is able to watch David after school, and helps him with homework.

Like so many other women in this situation, Monica hasn’t had time to grieve her lost dreams, let alone create new ones. She is stuck on the “gerbil wheel,” constantly moving and simply trying to survive. The stresses of the last few years have begun to take a toll on her life and her health. She is taking medication for high-blood pressure as well as an anti-depressant. She feels tired and on edge all the time. Life has become a blur of work, and rushing home to take her son to baseball practice or karate class or music lessons, and then repeating the same cycle the next day.

Her voice stays edgy, and escalates frequently to yelling at her son. Her mother was a yeller, and she promised herself as a child that she would not do this when she grew up. But she justifies her actions because David argues about everything or anything. It seems he will only do what she asks when it is communicated loudly and at a high octave.

She avoids dealing with these conflicts by giving him a new game or video to watch, so he will be occupied and she can have some peace and quiet. She misses his toddler days when they spent hours together playing, laughing, and having fun.

By the time Monica and David came to see me their clashing wills were escalating to nightly wars over homework or cleaning his bedroom.

Monica admitted she thought that David would outgrow the arguing, but now she feels like it has turned into outright defiance, which she found intolerable. She also realized that giving in to him when he was younger to make up for the lack of his dad had only been helpful in the moment and not long term.

She had spent hours doing her homework. She had read articles on what makes children argue and how to stop it. She had visited many parenting websites that offered suggestions. She had half-heartedly tried some of the techniques without success. She had so much information, but wasn’t sure what to do with it.

What she didn’t know was that she was not ready to take new parenting actions because she was in the contemplation stage of change. After getting to know each other, we talked about what she hoped to achieve for she and her son. Her focus was limited, but understandable - get through the day and hope things were better tomorrow.

She was surprised to find that the change model gave her a road map as to where she had been, and where she was that day in my office.

Here are some things she learned, and identified with, about being in the contemplation stage.

Behaviors in beginning contemplation stage:

Stuck for years in the same issue

Think a lot about the issue

Don’t take action or do it half-heartedly

Avoid conflicts

Hope problems will resolve themselves

Able to talk about themselves and problems

Reading articles and books about their issue

Try to understand their behavior or the behavior of others

Need a greater understanding of their behavior

Want to change, but are resistant to change

Afraid they will make the wrong change

Easy to keep getting more information

Worry instead of taking action steps

Waiting for the right moment to take new actions

Monica learned that self-awareness doesn’t have to be an ongoing marathon. However, it did require developing an honest awareness about how her thinking and feelings were contributing to the problem rather than to a solution. She also needed to develop some belief that change was possible and valuable, and that she could make it happen.

That meant having someone to coach and guide her through the process of change.

She had always tried to do things on her own. But in our first conversation where she felt heard, validated, and supported she recognized the value of a coach.

Monica found herself relaxing as she let go of the fear that I would judge and shame her. Instead she found that I was someone who would be a partner in helping her make the positive changes she wanted, including a better relationship with her son.

She learned that yelling was a stress management habit. And, like most habits, it worked in the short term and provided temporary relief, but in the long run it had created bigger problems with unintended consequences.

Hearing someone reflect back her own voice, and hearing it out loud, made Monica realize that she wanted to course correct.

She came to appreciate and value what coaching had to offer her:

1. A safe space of care, compassion, and reassurance of her struggles

2. A no nonsense accountability person

3. A place to express her feelings, and let them move through her, so she could let them go

4. Help in forgiving herself and making new choices for her behavior

5. Finding clarity for where she is and where she wants to go with a cheerleader and guide to help her there. I shared with her that in this stage of change there is a conflict between the awareness that a change is needed, and a resistance to change because it is unknown. Not wanting to sacrifice what you have, and the fear of what you will find out about yourself, is it any wonder that you stick to what is tried and true even if your heart and soul suffer?

Monica learned that resistance can be her friend. She found a new understanding of her humanity, and a bit of self-forgiveness. v Here are the delay tactics she recognized:

1. Getting stuck in over analyzing leads to chronic contemplation. Our information age supports this "stuckness". "After I read these ten self-help books." "After I go to one more workshop to make sure I understand why I’m doing what I’m doing." There is a point where you need to decide to take a small action, and see where it leads.

2. The Land of Wishing. "I wish I wouldn’t yell at my son." "I wish he would hurry up and grow out of this." "I wish I had more energy at the end of the day." "I wish I felt like playing with my son." Wishing on a star is a fairy tale.

3. Taking action before you are ready. Trying to make a change because you feel guilty about your behavior. It is challenging enough when your heart and soul see the need for changes. When you feel pressure from fighting how you are and trying to be different, you won’t have the stamina to go the distance. You will also end up blaming someone or something when you fail. But you haven’t failed because you never really engaged yourself in the task.

Monica was surprised to learn that when you want to make a positive change in life you can expect resistance. Old beliefs you didn’t know you had can arise from the depths of your unconscious while insecurities and lack of feeling confident lead to procrastinating, and unresolved fears are all part of the contemplation stage. They all need to be faced, so you increase your awareness of what has been stopping you from living the life you want to live. This is not a place to be a loner.

Through our work together, Monica learned that having a supportive coach to guide her and help her find her way is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and courage. It takes both to reach out and risk, allowing someone new into your life when you have been so deeply hurt in a relationship.

Monica’s value of having loving relationships became her new guiding light, and helped her realize what mattered to her, which was a good relationship with her son. That helped her move on to taking the next step into Preparation.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the work Monica had to do. To drill deeper into the Contemplation Stage in the change process I recommend the book “Changing for Good”.

If you are facing challenges, like Monica, that have turned your world upside down please consider Life Coaching as a way to learn the skills and tools to take back the wheel and drive your own life.

Remember I offer a free 15-minute telephone consultation so you can see if Life Coaching is for you.

Next month: Preparing For Effective Action

*Information comes from the book Changing for Good:  A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program For Overcoming Bad Habits And Moving Your Life Positvely Forward by James O. Prochaska, PH.D, John C. Norcross, PH.D, and Carlo C. Diclemente, PH.D published in 1994.  It can be purchased at:  www.amazon.com

Soulfull Woman Deborah Chelette-Wilson is a Licensed Professional Counselor, speaker and life coach who has helped many women find that elusive “something missing” in their lives. We are often pulled in so many directions, that it’s difficult to know how to put ourselves on our own To Do list. Contact Deborah to find out about her free 15-minute coaching session to help you find a more stress-free and soulfull You

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