I know I need to make a change, so why is it so hard?


I talk to a lot of people looking for a therapist from potential clients to friends to family and the common sentiment is this: I know I need to change, why can’t I just do it already?

It’s one thing to know what we need to change in our lives—from ending an old habit to making a shift in our lives. It’s a lot hard to actually make these changes day-to-day.

One (among many) reason for this difficulty is based in the nervous system and the brain. While we might know cognitively that all we need to do is move our bodies more, get more sleep, end a relationship, or set clearer boundaries, there is often a wide gap between mental knowing and our unconscious, body-based process.

This is why I work somatically, which means with the body and nervous system, because deep patterns are stored in our cells and tissues, rather than just in our minds. 

A way to work with a pattern of behavior that doesn’t seem to budge no matter how hard you try is to learn how to tune into your unconscious, which is through the body (or dreams, but that’s for another post).

In a therapy session what this looks like is that I bring your attention to your body over and over again. Sometimes this is very annoying. In the middle of a story I’ll stop you and ask you to check in with how you’re feeling. I stop myself and check in with how I’m feeling too. This isn’t meant to be super frustrating, but it is meant to slow us both down to listen more deeply to the meaning under the words.

The body speaks in a different language than the mind. Learning that your stomach tightens when you think of making a change, or your feel nauseated when you imagine calling that friend, or you feel dizzy and “out of it” when deciding what to do next is important in exploring how you really feel about something in your life—not just how you think about it or wish you felt about it.

When we are able to listen to our bodies, not only our minds, we are able to make deeper, lasting changes. We are able to sequence trauma patterns that are stored in our nervous systems. We are able to release patterns that come from ancestral lineages we don’t even know the origins of. 

So practice listening to the language of your body—how does it speak to you? This will help you begin to notice underlying needs, feelings, and beliefs that might even surprise you. 

With reverence for these bodies we have, 

Kathryn Holt