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Rediscover You: Therapy and the Paradoxical Theory of Change

Be yourself,” implored Oscar Wilde. “Everyone else is taken.”

It sounds so logical when you put it like that. So straightforward and simple. And deceptively easy.

But how often do you find yourself actually doing this seemingly simple thing?
Just being who you are.
Feeling what you feel.

Or does it seem more habitual to suppress or censor that? To will yourself to be different somehow. To be how you ‘should’ be. Feel how you ‘should’ feel. (Or at the very least, to feel bad about not being these things).

To resist.
To wish for something else. (Someone else).
To belittle or doubt or question yourself in some way.

And so, is it possible that trying to be the person you want to be comes at the expense of the person that you are?

Gestalt therapy has an interesting theory about that, which Arnold Beisser put this way:

“change occurs when one becomes what [one] is,

not when [one] tries to become

what [one] is not”

It’s a fairly radical idea – that all you have to do to change is actually to be right where you are; who you are.

And it’s got a fairly radical name, too:

the paradoxical theory of change.”

What if this theory were true? That you could automatically evolve just by being and accepting exactly who you are – with all your ‘faults’ and ‘flaws’ and ‘growing edges’ out there in full view alongside all the other ‘acceptable’ bits.

When was the last time you tried this, and ‘became what you are’?

How might you invite yourself to try it?

Would you even recognize the person who might come tumbling out of the restraints you’ve been bound by? Or have the rules and restrictions been too many to see yourself clearly through?

What would it mean to take up the challenge on the billboard in the photo above and “rediscover you”?

Just as you are.

Just at this point of your life.

Just now.

For, if the paradoxical theory of change is right, it’s not a life sentence anyway. Who you are in this moment may very well change. Naturally. Effortlessly. Inevitably.

If only you could let it be in the first place…

Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.

Rediscover You: Therapy and the Paradoxical Theory of Change

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2010). Rediscover You: Therapy and the Paradoxical Theory of Change. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Oct 2010
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