The process of change: hindsight, midsight and foresight

When we are trying to change a behaviour or a response, it can be a frustrating and baffling process. Why, if we try so hard, are we still doing the thing that we don’t want to do? Or how are we ending up in the same place, over and over again, without quite knowing how we got there?


Whether it’s a type of relationship that no longer serves us, or we watch ourselves respond habitually in a way that does not serve us. Well, change can be a tricky process.

The process of change

The first phase is hindsight. We start to watch our past process from the safe perspective of the present. We unpick it, work out what happened and what, perhaps, we would have liked to do differently.

If we find ourselves, for example, being habitually defensive when our partner asks us to do something differently, we might examine where our response comes from. Is it an old response from our family of origin or are we habitually criticised in our current relationship, or both? Are we perfectionistic and find not doing it right very hard to tolerate? Do we have a complicated relationship with anger? Do we struggle to be assertive? For example, are we aggressive, passive, or passive-aggressive?

Is there anything that we need to acknowledge or feel, that we haven’t been allowing into our consciousness? Do we feel shame, hurt or sadness under the anger? Can we allow ourselves to breathe fully into that and then let it pass through, or do we need support and a safe other to help us process this feeling?

And then, we can make a plan for how we might wish to respond, should the situation arise again.

The second stage is midsight,this is where we find ourselves in the middle of it, without quite being able to change. It can go on for quite a while! Sometimes years, with big difficulties like addictions. This is where people often get discouraged and think this is not working. It can be scary to change.

If we always find ourselves in a type of relationship that is not good for us, we might also have to learn how to be in a relationship that is good for us. The unknown can be anywhere on the scale from uncomfortable to downright terrifying. If our past relationships did not meet our needs and we are used to being deprived, letting in a new kind of love can be very, very sad, as we feel hurt of the earlier deprivation.

With behaviour change, this is where we will find ourselves responding habitually (angrily when we are actually hurt) but not quite be able to change it. We will watch ourselves do it over and over again. And we might not know why, until the next part...

The third stage is foresight. This iswhere we see what is coming and are able to navigate it in a different way. Sometimes it will feel as if it happened overnight, it can be painstaking and comes piece by piece.

6 places we commonly get stuck

1. It is common to get stuck in stage two, midsight and give up. People habitually feel that this is where therapy fails them.

2. It can be easy to give the therapist too much power to create the change. It can be examined and worked through it in therapy, but then it is up to you to apply what you’ve learned in ‘the real world’.

3. It is common to go back and forth between making the change and doing the same old thing. Analyse the differences between the situations if it warrants it, to see if anything else arises that needs attending to, but equally, it is a very normal part of the process. Don’t give up!

4. We avoid feelings. It can be hard to face our demons. Get support if you’re struggling.

5. We try to make changes when we have a lot of other stuff going on in our lives. It is important to acknowledge that if you are at a point of high stress in your life, it can just make it that bit harder.

6. We try to do too much, too fast. Go easy on yourself.

Things that might help

Being non-judgemental

See if you can find a way of being kind to yourself. It can really hinder the process if you’re highly judgemental or critical of yourself. See if you can develop a narrative of compassion wisdom alongside (and eventually instead of) your more critical voice. If you really struggle with this, therapy with a self-compassionate focus might really benefit you, or there are plenty of books out there that are brilliant.

Feel supported

When we feel connected and supported in our lives, it is far easier to be brave. We truly are social creatures. If you are not already connected to your fellows, take a look at how you can increase feelings of connectedness throughout your day and your life. If this is a difficult area for you, therapy or a support group can be a really good place to start.

And finally...

It is an act of courage to engage in a process of change. I hope that you know how brave you are.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2LE
Written by Jo Baker, Integrative Counselling BSc
Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2LE

Experienced UPCA registered psychotherapeutic counsellor, Jo specialises in individual therapy for women. She has worked with survivors of domestic and sexual violence for a number of years.

She works from her private practice in East Sussex and has just started writing about self-care, self-compassion and healing at

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