By Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy
In college, I avoided science courses as much as possible. They seemed so hard and not very relevant to my goal of becoming a psychotherapist. I stuck to psychology, sociology and counseling classes, whenever possible (there was that probability and statistics class I had to take, and I really sweated that one out).
If I could go back, I would sure do it differently. Now, I find biology, physics and chemistry fascinating. I am really interested in how plants/people/animals function, grow and improve. And, of course, it is highly relevant to my work as a psychotherapist. The mind-body connection is strong and powerful.
A neuroscientist friend of mine told me that, in order to move to a higher level of functioning, an organism must undergo a process of molecular reorganization. In the short run, this feels like chaos to the organism (in other words, it doesn’t feel good). In the long run, however, it is a real boon to the organism, it allows/facilitates a much higher level of functioning in many ways.
I told my friend that this is what it feels like — psychologically — when a person wants to move to a higher level of functioning. In the short run, it feels chaotic, confusing and disorienting. This is why many people tell me that they want to change, but that it’s so scary and unpleasant for them that they just give up.
They might be right of the middle of their own molecular reorganization process … and, then, rather than hang in, they give up. I’m sure I’ve done the same thing myself. I decide that I want to accomplish something, slog away at it for a while, but it doesn’t seem to be happening fast enough, so I give up. I abandon my own process of psychological reorganization because it just seems too damned hard.
What can we do about this? Ironically, the way out is to go in. There may be a strong temptation to deny that this is going on: “Maybe if I ignore this it will go away on its own.” That rarely works, because molecular reorganization has a purpose … and wouldn’t it be more useful to find out what that purpose is? So, I invite you to dive into it. Be curious about it, and then explore it. This is more of a Buddhist/meditative way of handling difficult experiences: you go into it and see what it has to teach you.
Sounds good, but it’s not easy. How can we stay with these feelings of chaos and confusion when a big part of us just wants to run away? We may feel anomie. “Anomie” is a French word that, in essence, means “normlessness.” We don’t know what the right thing to do is, what’s “normal,” Our old ideals and values no longer serve us. It’s time for change, for our own molecular reorganization.
How to start embracing this internal reorganization? Simply be willing. Willingness is the best way to begin. It tells your mind, “I may not know how to handle this, but I am willing to learn.” In my experience, whenever I say that I am willing, the universe always gives me ways to do the seemingly impossible. It sounds awfully simple, but, give it a try.
Of course, the very best part of molecular organization is the end result. The organism now functions at a much higher level. It has discarded old, obsolete modalities of functioning and embraced new, more efficient and effective ways of operation.
And we can do the same: we can move through difficult times — where things feel chaotic and the change process is intense — and come out as a much higher functioning, happier, more peaceful and wise person. This is similar to what psychologist F. Scott Peck called “remapping.” His point was that, periodically, we “outgrow” the old maps of our lives and need to create new maps.
Whether you call it remapping, molecular reorganization or just plain growth, it’s a really good, constructive and necessary part of life. As the Buddhists advise, be willing to embrace and be curious about your own molecular reorganization, rather than run away from the anomie of change.
Our own molecular reorganization has much to teach us.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.