I call it the “To Hell with It” point (THIP). This is not an empirical observation by any means, but it’s been my experience that unless you’re a specifically proactive person, real change only occurs after you hit your THIP. It might happen when you hit rock bottom in a given situation. Perhaps after the fifth abusive relationship in a year, or after getting your third F-grade in a month.
THIP is where you decide you’ve had enough and make a real committment to change the way you’ve been doing things. You may say or think, “I dunno what’s on the other side of this change, but there’s gotta be a better way”. It’s a sort of faith that there is a better way. And motivation is strong, and you can tell by your actions. Commitment is measured in action, not in the strength of your words or how often you say you’re committed. Even before you hit your THIP you may make the motions of change and perhaps even try hard, but you’re not really committed to giving up your old ways and seeking something new.
This means that sometimes you have to let the people around you fall and hurt themselves a bit before they themselves want to improve things. If you keep them artificially above from their THIP point, that can sometimes work out worse in the long run. However, there is the possibility that they won’t ever reach their THIP, even if they’re in the worst possible condition. Rock bottom is still above their THIP. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you have to let go of relationships with love and compassion, but let them go.
This is also hard because we tend to think of ourselves as good people who wouldn’t let someone suffer around them without doing something. It attacks our very identity as a good person. And we may feel guilty about it. But you have to trust that this is the best thing for them at this time, and that sometimes to be a good person, it means to let people you love to suffer a little. It hurts and your sense of compassion may be screaming at you, but you have to let people live their lives, otherwise they won’t learn for themselves.
You can clean a child’s room to have a clean room, but the real point is for the child to clean the room itself. Ideally the child will have intrinsic motivation to clean the room and do it happily. Sometimes people need to suffer for a bit, hit their THIP and find their own motivation and make their own decision about change. You can push them to change, and they might change, but it won’t be because they want to, and soon as you’re gone, they’ll just revert back. They need to become sick of it. Keeping people above their THIP artificially is a bit like cleaning the child’s room yourself. Then the child learns nothing. Perhaps the child needs to stay in its mess for a little while before it says, “To hell with this, I’m cleaning my room and keeping it clean from now on”. That “little while” may take a long time depending on the situation. Years sometimes.
Not everyone reaches the THIP, of course. To successfully transition from a bad situation into a good one, people need to take responsibility and recognize that they are the ones that will fix things. You. Likely alone. If you need help, there will be plenty available, but that you have to do it. But taking responsibility isn’t easy. Accepting that your current life is largely a matter of the decisions you made or the decisions to do nothing you made is hard. That’s where the distinction between responsibility and guilt comes in. But, there is power, too. You still have that power of decision and you can decide differently now.