The Freedom to Change

By Iet Veenland

Seminars and gatherings about behavioural sciences are frequently held throughout the Template Network. Topaz asked Iet Veenland, a regular lecturer at these seminars and an experienced counsellor, to write about one of the core freedoms in human life, the one that allow us to CHANGE.

“We shrink from change; yet is there anything that can come into being without it?” - Marcus Aurelius

Wise words from history that are valid today, and in these times we are continually trying to come to terms with change - changes in ourselves, changes in the spirit of the times, changes to what is acceptable and what isn’t, new insights in science, new innovations in technology, from the electric light bulb to the radio, the television set, the mobile phone, computers, the internet and so on. The times, circumstances and influences vary, but the process of change seems timeless.

It could be argued that we have all been given life ‘to allow for growth’. We have been given a body that grows. At the time of birth it is small, around 50 cm long, it will grow to at least three and some times four times its original length and will reach its final, adult measurement around our 20th birthday. As well as our body we have been given many different faculties and abilities with potential for growth, for instance emotional and mental abilities, speech, the ability to have insight and understanding, spiritual abilities, the ability to feel empathy and put ourselves in the situation of another, the ability to express ourselves. In each of these territories a person truly goes through an evolution during their life time. Different to the growth of the body, the growth of abilities is not fixed and finished at a certain stage, it continues and is dependent upon what is done with it. In what way and to what extent these abilities are developed is each person’s own choice, and that makes each one of us so utterly unique.

Change to learn


Life is a continuous process of change. Without change a person could not grow, learn and gain experience. For example, little John sits on the ground with his new toy. It is a piece of varnished wood with spaces for different shapes, a circle, a triangle, a square and a rectangle. On the floor next to him are some brightly coloured blocks of wood in the same shapes. Johnny is frantically trying to fit a square block into a round hole, firstly by pushing it, then, as he gets angry, he hits the square block in the direction of the round hole, and finally the pieces end up flying through the room.

In the next phase, and with some guidance, Johnny will try to fit the square block into another hole, or he will choose a different block to try to fit into the round hole. It is fascinating to observe that process of change and growth, however obvious, and it continues to be at play in all kinds of situations when a person has to let go of ways that do not work and start to search for new ones. Let’s look at another example.

A handyman is up a ladder, busy with a job. He asks the eager young helper who stands on the ground, “Could you pass me the pipe wrench”. The young man searches through a large and well equipped tool kit, picks out a pair of pliers and puts them into the hand of the waiting handyman. “No, the pipe wrench”, he says, a bit impatiently. Once again the young man willingly dives into the toolkit and this time he finds a different pair of pliers. “No, the PIIIPE WREEEEENCH!!”, shouts the handyman. Eventually it dawns on him that his way of handling the situation is not going to produce the intended result. With a big sigh he comes down the ladder and picks out the tool he needs. “Look”, he says, “this is a pipe wrench”.

We tend to approach a problem or a situation in the same way, a way that is well known to us, and if it does not work we try it again, this time just a bit more forcefully, and again, yet more forcefully, until the moment comes when you realise that it is not going to work, it is not going to solve anything. This is the moment when the process of change can start to happen – when you start to search for insight, understanding, another way to do it, in short, change – or not. In the example with the handyman it happened when he realised that shouting louder was not going to help because the other person simply did not know what he was talking about and that he was going to need to take the trouble to first make clear what it is that he meant.

Without change, growth is not possible, but not every change brings growth. How is it possible to deal with change in a constructive manner? How can a person open themselves to growth, without losing themselves or without renouncing their values and principles. How can you use change in order to grow?

If you find yourself in a situation that is difficult or challenging, and there is no way to change or avoid the situation itself, do realise that you always have the freedom to change how you deal with it, the freedom to change yourself. The following template is aimed at personal growth, and can help to make conscious what steps you can take to allow a new way of dealing with something.

Iet Veenland
Iet veenland

1. Observation

Identify what the problem is. What is really bothering you? What is it that you would like to change? Don’t be satisfied with your answers too quickly. Try to find the real answer, because what is really bothering a person is often found beneath the surface.

2. Recognizing the pattern

In which situations does it happen, what pattern does it follow, when does it happen and when does it not happen?

3. What is it connected to?

What else is connected to it? Nothing exists on its own, everything belongs in a greater context, sometimes things are being fed from the past, or by habits. If you want to change one thing, it often becomes necessary to change more things. If you want to change something in yourself, realise that it will have an effect on your surroundings, but also on yourself. Do you know why you react as you do, and what you will release if you are going to change it?

These first steps help to create a space between the ‘problem’ and yourself. You can now look at it from a distance and in that way you and the problem are not one and the same thing any more, you no longer identify with it. The problem and your reaction to it are getting clearer, separated out from you the person.

4. Choice

Now that you have created some distance and gained a better understanding and overview of what is going on, the next question presents itself - do you want to make the effort and take the responsibility to do something about it? It might be that the previous steps have shown that the problem isn’t actually that big, or that it is temporary, and you may choose to accept it as it is. It may be that the previous steps gave you a reason to go on and search further. Whatever you decide to do, this is the moment when you make a conscious choice, and in that choice lies the freedom that you have to determine in what direction you want to go and how you want to react.

5. Reasons: Why do you want to change it?

The reason, or reasons, why you want to do something is the most powerful engine – it is, after all, the motive the driving power. The reason gives direction and releases the energy to do. If you don’t have a good reason to do something, it can be very difficult to force yourself to do it or find the energy to do it, but if you do have a good reason, you suddenly connect to a bank of energy that makes it easy to engage in the process of change.

6. Projection: How would you want to see it changed?

Try to imagine what you would want the situation to be and look like, or how you would like to deal with the situation. From that image or vision then look back to where you are now, and take stock of what you will need in order to get where you want to be.

7. Repetition

Do not expect that you can solve something in one go, but be prepared to try again and again. One time it may seem more successful than another, but each time that you consciously try, it will grow stronger, the choice will be more conscious, the reasons deeper and in the end it will become a part of yourself.

As a human a person is really ‘work in progress’, never ready, never finished, there are new dimensions available at the moment that you take charge of yourself and take the freedom to change.

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