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How a hardcore prisoner taught me the cycle of change…

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cycle of change and motivation

Wish there was a guide for motivation that told you what to do and when?

There is, and it’s called the Cycle Of Change.

Originally designed to assess and treat substance abuse, the cycle of change describes the process you will go through to change your behavior, and how your level of motivation fluctuates throughout that process.

Precontemplative – not even thinking about changing

Contemplative – realising something might need to change

Planning – figuring out how to change

Action – making the changes

Maintenance – making the changes consistent over time

Lapse – having thoughts that put you at risk of going backwards

Relapse – giving up and reverting back to your old behavior

 

By determining where you are in the cycle you can figure out what the most effective actions are for you to take.

Motivation fluctuates over time. You may assess yourself as being at a certain stage one day, only to then move forward or backwards to a different stage shortly after that. This most often happens when something in your environment presents either a new challenge or more inspiration.

 

THE CYCLE OF CHANGE IN ACTION

Any of you can research the cycle of change, so today I’ll do something different. I’m going to share a true-life story of someone I worked with as she travelled through the entire cycle.

To ensure privacy, let’s just call her “Joan”.

Joan was a high risk offender I worked with for a number of years and, sadly, is not one of my success stories. However her journey will allow us to go through the entire cycle of change model, from pre-contemplative through to relapse.

When Joan was first released from prison she was tough to work with. The many years of ingrained gang-mentality, combined with a long-standing hatred for “the system”, meant I needed to bring out the big guns in order to motivate her.

What was complex in this case was that she actually made a lot of money from crime, which financed her fun-filled and hedonistic lifestyle.

When she first came in it was obvious that she did not see herself as having any issues. This was a woman with “F*** the Police” tattooed on her face.

Joan had been running a highly profitable car theft ring, and had such a great underworld reputation that prison was actually a pretty enjoyable experience for her. Therefore, the idea that she needed to change had genuinely never occurred to her.

This placed her in the pre-contemplative stage.

 

PRECONTEMPLATIVE STAGE

Action required: Get uncomfortable about staying the same.

After a few sessions it was obvious there was no “ammunition” for me to work with regarding the costs and benefits of crime for her. She loved crime! But as time went on and we built a rapport, I learned that she had four children.

One thing that is almost universal about the offenders I have worked with is they almost never want the same life for their children (yes ok, there are some very shocking exceptions). I decided to work on this new angle.

I had assisted her to find housing and employment, and had given her some solid support for solving problems. We also had a frank discussion, where we “unpacked” her history with government agencies and the justice system. I acknowledged how she felt.

After all of this she started to trust me a little. This allowed me to introduce the concept of completing exercises to examine her life, to see if anything could be better.

Together we predicted the path that her eldest son would take in life. On one side, I got Joan to predict what would happen to him if she kept up her life of crime.

Joan was quite straightforward and it was easy to see that her boy would get involved in drugs, end up in gangs, and quite likely go to prison.

On the other side we predicted what would happen to him if she quit offending immediately. It was touching to see that she had quite high hopes for her son, with him completing school, getting a university qualification, and supporting his sisters by starting his own business.

I left Joan to mull over our discussion for a week. When she came back, she said that she was starting to see that she needed to do something to at least plan for the future of her children. She was now in the contemplative stage.

 

CONTEMPLATIVE STAGE

Action required: Motivational work; take advantage of this opportunity and create hope in change.

Focusing on her son, we went through and listed everything he would need from Joan to achieve the lifestyle she wanted him to have. This was tricky ground, because a lot of his financial needs could be supported through crime. We might have ended up coming to the conclusion that she had to keep offending to support her son.

Instead I had her look at other types of support he would need. Joan came up with ideas like transport to extra-curricular activities, helping with his homework, backing for a business loan, and so on.

I think at that stage she didn’t even realize we had basically agreed that she needed to stay out of prison, i.e. she had to stop offending. As you’ll soon see, I made some false assumptions here that ended up costing us both.

We had now moved tentatively into the planning stage.

 

PLANNING STAGE

Action required: Figure out how to make the change possible and achievable.

Whether Joan was aware of it or not, she had now completed the foundation of the plan for her to stop offending and stay out of prison. In order for her to take action on this plan, I needed to motivate her.

We dedicated the next few sessions to motivational interviewing and exercises, where I slowly increased her confidence so she could write her goals. Eventually the plan was clear:

  • I will complete the Better Start [name changed] parenting course by end of July
  • I will complete a certified course in catering, starting July 15th, so that I can get better employment
  • I will spend 1 hour every night helping my children with their homework and talking with them about their school life

Once she became more motivated we went about the practical aspects of putting these goals into action.

 

ACTION STAGE

Action required: Encourage continued action through praise and support, and build on results.

Joan did well, was soon gainfully employed and began enthusiastically sharing stories about the increasing quality of her family time. She even bought her son in to tell me about what he had been learning at school.

 

MAINTENANCE PHASE

Action required: Overcome obstacles while embedding change through new routines.

While there were a few small hiccups here and there, Joan kept this helpful behavior going for quite a few months and moved into the maintenance phase. Even the Police commented on her improvements.

If only the story ended there…

LAPSE
Action required: Stop and figure out what caused lapse thinking. Implement strategies to get back on track.

Joan had her first lapse. She had been at a friend’s place when an argument occurred. Her friend had some unhelpful things to say about Joan’s new outlook on life. Given that Joan was known for assaulting Police severely enough to hospitalize them, this friend must have been intoxicated, reckless or plain old crazy.

Joan managed to remove herself from the situation, but the next time she reported in to me I could see the dark storm-cloud over her head. She was cursing more than usual, and her body language was tense and menacing.

After some gentle questioning, Joan disclosed the incident and admitted that she had been contemplating ordering others to commit serious violence against her new enemy. This was a serious lapse which thankfully had not resulted in action.

We did some exercises on managing high risk situations, and Joan left with a clear “relapse prevention” plan, which detailed how to avoid the friend as well as how to deal with the situation should Joan accidentally run into her.

Unfortunately, I had misjudged the situation.

I had thought that by dealing with the specific threat to her success I helped neutralize the problem. What I missed was the core issue in the lapse: Joan was back to using crime to solve problems.

I had not even contemplated that she might be applying this negative style of thinking to other problems in her life. Sure enough, one week later she failed to report in to me, because she had relapsed.

 

RELAPSE

Action required: Start over again, learning from the last attempt’s mistakes.

I checked her up on the computer-system and found out she had been remanded in custody with active theft charges. Turns out she re-engaged her old criminal network and started stealing again.

Even though I had trained myself not to get emotionally attached to the outcomes with clients, I felt disappointed. It’s hard to see months of hard work go down the drain, but at least I learned a very valuable lesson:

Problem-thinking always affects more than one area of your life!

Dan is a lifestyle and success coach, with his own company The Inspirational Lifestyle Ltd. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and loves to share his advice and opinions on how to attain success. Make sure you checkout more of Dans articles at: TheInspirationalLifestyle.com

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5 Indicators of Unresolved Attachment Trauma

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Emotional Attachment Trauma

Trauma caused during specific stages of a child’s development, known as attachment trauma, can have lasting effects on a person’s sense of safety, security, predictability, and trust. This type of trauma is often the result of abuse, neglect, or inconsistent care from a primary caregiver.

Individuals who have not fully processed attachment trauma may display similar patterns of behavior and physical or psychological symptoms that negatively impact their adult lives, including the choices they make in relationships and business.

Unfortunately, many people may not even be aware that they are struggling with trauma. Research estimates that 6% of the population will experience PTSD in their lifetime, with a majority of males and females having experienced significant trauma.

Unresolved attachment trauma can significantly impair the overall quality of a person’s life, including their ability to form healthy relationships and make positive choices for themselves. One well-known effect of unhealed attachment trauma is the compulsion to repeat past wounds by unconsciously selecting romantic partners who trigger their developmental trauma.

However, there are other less recognized but equally detrimental signs of unprocessed developmental trauma.

 

Five possible indications of unresolved attachment trauma are:

 

1.  Unconscious Sabotage

Self-sabotage is a common pattern among individuals with unprocessed attachment trauma. This cycle often begins with hurting others, which is then followed by hurting oneself. It is also common for those with attachment trauma to have heightened emotional sensitivity, which can trigger this cycle.

This pattern can manifest in lashing out, shutting down, or impulsive behavior that leads to feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing.

Many people with attachment trauma are not aware of their wounds and operate on survival mode, unconsciously testing or challenging the emotional investment of those around them, and pushing them away out of self-preservation and fear of abandonment.

This can lead to a pattern of making poor choices for themselves based on impulsivity.

 

2. Persistent Pain

 
Chronic pain is a common symptom that can stem from early trauma. Studies have shown a connection between physical conditions such as fibromyalgia, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, muscle aches, back pain, chest pain, and chronic fatigue with the aftermath of chronic developmental trauma, particularly physical abuse.
 
Research has found that individuals with insecure attachment styles, such as anxious, avoidant, or disorganized, have a higher incidence of somatic symptoms and a history of physical and emotional abuse in childhood compared to those with a secure attachment style.
 
 

3. Behaviors That Block Out Trauma

 
Trauma blocking practises are used to avoid the pain and memories connected with traumatic events.
 
Emotional numbing, avoidance, and escape via briefly pleasurable activities that distract from terrible memories or suffering are common examples. Unfortunately, this escape habit stops people from successfully processing and recovering from their trauma.
 
Furthermore, when the pain resurfaces, more and more diversions are necessary to continue ignoring it. This can be seen in compulsive behaviours such as drug or alcohol addiction, emotional eating, numbing oneself through relationships, workaholism, excessive or dangerous exercise routines, compulsive internet or technology use, or any other compulsive behaviour used to distract yoursef from intrusive thoughts and emotions.
 
These actions have the potential to prolong a cycle of avoidance and repression, preventing persons from healing and progressing.
 

4. A strong need for control

 
It’s understandable that some people may struggle with control issues in their adult lives, especially if they felt helpless or vulnerable during their childhood.
 
This can happen if someone had an overbearing caregiver who didn’t let them make their own choices, expected too much from them, or didn’t take care of them properly. As adults, they might try to control everything in their life to feel more in control and less anxious or scared. This might be because they didn’t feel like they had control over their life when they were a child.
 
It’s important to remember that everyone’s experiences are different and it’s okay to seek help if you’re struggling with control issues.
 
 

5. Psychological Symptoms That Are Not Explained

 
Individuals with a history of developmental trauma may experience a range of psychological symptoms, including obsessive-compulsive behavior, intense mood swings, irritability, anger, depression, emotional numbing, or severe anxiety.
 
These symptoms can vary in intensity and may occur intermittently throughout the day. People with this type of trauma may attempt to “distract” themselves from these symptoms by denying or rationalizing them, or may resort to substance abuse or behavioral addictions as coping mechanisms. This can be a maladaptive way of trying to numb their symptoms.
 
 

What to do next if you’re suffering from emotional attachment trauma?

 
Everyone’s experience of healing from trauma is unique. It’s important to be aware of whether you have experienced childhood developmental trauma and how it may be affecting your relationships as an adult. Sometimes, the effects of trauma can be overwhelming and we may try to push them away or avoid them.
 
If you notice that you’re engaging in these behaviors, it’s important to seek help from a trauma therapist who can support you on your healing journey. Remember, you’re not alone and it’s never too late to start healing.
 

There are several ways that people can work to overcome emotional attachment trauma:

  1. Therapy: One of the most effective ways to overcome emotional attachment trauma is through therapy. A therapist can help you process your experiences, understand the impact of your trauma on your life, and develop coping strategies to manage symptoms.
  2. Support groups: Joining a support group of people who have had similar experiences can be a great way to find validation, empathy, and a sense of community.
  3. Mindfulness practices: Mindfulness practices such as meditation, pilates, prayer time with God or journaling can help you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and develop a sense of spiritual connection and self-regulation.
  4. Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT): This is a type of therapy that is specifically designed to help individuals process and recover from traumatic events.
  5. Building a safety net: Building a support system of people you trust, who are there for you when you need them, can help you feel more secure and safe in your life.

It’s important to remember that healing from emotional attachment trauma is a process and it may take time. It’s also important to find a therapist who is experienced in treating trauma, who you feel comfortable talking with, and who can help you develop a personalized treatment plan.

 
 
If you desire to work with me on healing your wounds and unlocking the aspects of you that were never realized so you can achieve more success in your life then head over to awebliss.com and join my weekly LIVE online mentorship calls.
 
 
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