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PERSONAL HEALTH : So, You Want to Change Your Life?

April 13, 1993|KATHLEEN DOHENY

People who want to change their lives but can't often criticize themselves. Some seek out a therapist who will help them quit their job, find a mate or give up a bad habit. But Los Angeles psychotherapist Lynne Bernfield won't play that game.

"Over the years, people would recite a litany," she recalls. " 'I'm bad,' they would tell me. 'Make me lose weight. Make me get assertive.' " Bernfield's reply: "You can't do what you can't do."

Instead of focusing on their failure to change, Bernfield tells clients to examine their resistance to it. "There's a reason you are not doing what you want," she says. "Until you know the reason and address it, you are probably not going to be able to change."

Next, she asks people to accept her mantra about change: "When You Can You Will." It's also the title of her new book, published by Lowell House and brimming with observations about the pathway to change.

Use the change you cannot make, she suggests, as a vehicle to discover yourself. During this self-discovery phase, many people surprise themselves by making changes almost effortlessly.

Even people who don't achieve the desired change can end up different--they've learned to be nicer to themselves. For some, that's a very big change.

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