It may sound strange, but successful substance abuse therapy and marriage counseling often have one thing in common: A client’s willingness to be humble. Humility is the attitude that precedes many positive, concrete steps on the road to healing – whether it’s healing yourself or your relationship.
It makes sense if you think about it. In either case, if you are considering counseling, you have come to a point where you know something needs to change. In order to effect change, you must first be able to admit that you are partially responsible for whatever is going wrong. Laying blame outside yourself may feel good, but it will only perpetuate the problem. As Eastern philosophers frequently teach: You cannot always control what happens, but you can control your own actions and reactions to what happens. Sometimes, it just takes work.
Humility is also critical to taking the next step: Asking for help. This can be especially difficult for people who take pride in their ability to do everything on their own. Stretching out your hand for a lift up is not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it takes great strength to openly admit you cannot do something alone.
For couples, Dr. Phil uses the example of a wagon at the bottom of a hill. If you and your husband, wife or partner both pull the wagon up the hill, think how much easier the work will be. Once on top, you can look back on what you have accomplished… together.
Most important – and perhaps most difficult – it takes humility to shift how you perceive the world, others and your experience. Counselors frequently ask some version of the question: Do you want to be right, or do you want to be _____? Fill in the blank with “addiction-free,” “happily married,” or whatever fits your situation; in any case, it means having to throw out the broken record and learn a new tune.
For instance, I often see clients who tell me some version of: “I’ve said this a million times, but nothing changes.” I help them to understand that, whatever they are saying, to themselves or another, even if it is true, is not working. With a humble shift, say from criticism to empathy, they may find a new line, one that makes a positive impact.
Embracing humility is a courageous, compassionate act. Find the strength to be humble, and you will improve your chances of changing for good.