INSIGHT VS. TRANSFORMATION
Have you ever wondered why going to therapy didn’t fully solve your problems? Or maybe you’re more the type to hash things out with your friends—but then wonder why the realizations you have over a bottle of wine don’t seem to translate to changes in your life?
The answer is that insight is not the same thing as transformation.
Insight simply means you understand what thought patterns you have, and maybe where they came from, and typically it also means understanding how they play-out in your life now. But none of that magically gives you the ability to change. Insight is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. On its own, insight rarely creates transformation.
Let’s say you experience a lot of anxiety when you’re worried an authority figure may be upset with you, like your boss. You go to therapy, talk to friends, or journal all your thoughts, and you figure out it reminds you of when one of your parents was mad at you, and that scared you as a child (or may still scare you now!).
So now what? You’re going to keep having the same automatic anxiety response when you have the thought your boss may be mad at you. Knowing where it comes from isn’t really going to help you, because while it explains it, it doesn’t change it.
You’re not going to feel chill about your boss until you’re able to change the thought that is creating fear. You must rewire your brain to think in a new way.
What you need is application.
Application creates transformation.
Knowing your thoughts cause your feelings doesn’t make your thoughts change or your feelings less intense. You have to apply the knowledge and practice changing each thought as you go along.
Let me give you another example. Let’s say you figure-out in therapy you’re attracted to unavailable partners because you’re scared to get close to someone in case they reject you. You repeatedly choose someone you know will reject you right away—that way you don’t have to wait for the other shoe to drop.
Does knowing this change the fact that you’re lusting over your married colleague or your commitment-phobic ex? Nope! Now you can just watch yourself running after them in slow motion, but you still don’t know how to change it. Because you have insight without transformation.
Revelation is nice, but it happens in a moment. It’s a flash of insight—but it’s not lasting change. Revelation is like a sexy stranger in a bar. Application is like a real relationship that requires daily intimacy, connection, and commitment. Even when you’re not getting along. Even when you’re tired. Even when one of you wants to have sex, and the other wants to watch TV. Even when you get dragged to their mother’s for Thanksgiving.
Application is a relationship with yourself. It’s showing up for yourself day after day, even when it’s hard, challenging, confusing, and your brain wants to quit. Application is taking what you learn and applying it. Not just listening.
Revelation and insight are easy. They feel great, and they don’t require effort. Application is where the rubber hits the road, where you change your life, and where you commit to living an examined, authentic, engaged life. Application is where you promise to stay awake and show-up for yourself again and again.
You truly cannot imagine what you’re capable of accomplishing in this one wild and precious life if you apply yourself. It would blow your fucking mind. I know because I’ve blown my own repeatedly since I began using these tools.
Give yourself the gift of your own time and energy. Practice application, and you will see transformation.
If you want some help learning how to do that, you should join us in the Clutch. Check it out here.