Wanting to Change vs. Wanting to Want to Change

Traffic Sign with "Change Ahead"A few years ago, I wanted to get over feeling furious about something—or I thought I did. During that time, I would wander around thinking to myself (and saying to anyone who would listen) “I want to feel differently about this….” “I wish I could feel differently about this….” “I should feel differently about this….”

Suffice to say, I could not get myself to feel differently about it—and it was bumming me out.

So I took a step back.

I looked at the distinction between ‘wanting to change’ and ‘wanting to want to change.’

Now I’m guessing that some of you, on reading that, thought to yourselves, “Really??” or “What??” or “That’s just verbal gymnastics.”


I’m not saying it’s not subtle. 

Here’s what I mean:

So often we have an idea about how we “should” feel about something that’s occurred; and this “should” is based on our own needs or society’s expectations. The tricky bit is we aren’t quite finished processing what’s happened. For whatever reason, we remain stuck in the way we are feeling—and then we get to feel worse because (in addition to the thing that’s making us crazy) we feel badly that we can’t just turn off our emotions like a faucet.

I’m suggesting there is an interim step.

The step between ‘wanting to change’ and ‘wanting to want to change.”

My idea is that—for whatever reason—the feelings you are holding onto are serving you in some way. Rage is fueling your ambition (Never underestimate that) Sadness is allowing you to retain your victim status (Victimhood is powerful) Fear is keeping you in the known and familiar (Who doesn’t love the known and familiar?)

But all the time, a part of your mind is telling you, “But I should want to change….”

If you’ve experienced this, here’s my suggestion: take a step back. Instead of wanting to change how you feel, think about wanting to want to change how you feel—really wanting it. 

Yes, it’s subtle—but it’s also powerful.

Frances Cole Jones