Dr. Keith: The Second Step to Changing Your Life

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

Once you've committed to focusing on a specific area of your life that you want to change, the key to moving forward will be taking this leap of faith: Accepting the idea that your problem hasn't come out of the blue. It has roots from the past.

If you have been trying to muscle through your problems for some time, always making the resolution to just stopyelling at your kids, to just stopeating so much, or to just stopselling yourself short in relationships or in pursuing your dreams, you are probably ready accept that simply being tired of your tired of your behavior and wantingto change it does not necessarily leadto change.

You have suspected there's another way, and Step Two is about allowing the key to your future could lie in coming to grips with parts of your pastthat you have left unexplored.

Imagine if someone were to ask you to start reading a novel beginning on page 125, to continue reading through page 225, and to then write an ending in which the lead character meets with tremendous success.Chances are you'd feel anxious and unprepared. After all, you'd be coming to the story midstream, without knowing the character's motivations, strengths and weaknesses."This isn't my story," your heart would tell you."How am I supposed to make it come out right?"

In order to write something credible and convincing, you'd want to know what happened to the main character in the first 124 pages. You'd want to know how he or she had responded to personal challenges, what life lessons he or she had taken away from their family of origin, whether they had suffered any significant losses, what their parents' marriage was like, so forth.You'd want to know all about the character's back story(his or her earlier life history).

Without this information, you could not confidently move forward, the next chapters you wrote would make the story and the character seem false.

Likewise, when we try to move forward with our lives without a true understanding of its earlier chapters, we ask of ourselves something no less fraught with difficulty.

There's a reason we turn blind eyes to our own life histories, our own back stories:We are needlessly afraid that looking at the past, especially the parts of it that are unsettling, will somehow weaken us or take away our momentum in life.

Step Two asks you to stop running, and to believe that there are great rewards in store for you if you do. The truth about your life history-including the strengths andthe weaknesses in your family relationships, the successes and the failures you have encountered, the gifts you received andthe losses you sustained-are not your enemies. They are buried treasures. They are meant to be uncovered, looked at honestly and learned from, because they hold the keys to who we are and ways we can change. They tell us what holds us back from being our best selves, having good relationships, and achieving our goals.

Imagine a woman who is always picking the wrong men: Men who drink, men who don't treat her well, men who force her again and again into a caretaking role, but don't take care of her.

What she needs, is insight into whyshe is making choices that cause her so much suffering, so she can change her behavior patterns and find true love.

The insight such a woman needs is as close as her own past experiences in life, very possibly in her family of origin. Maybe the insight can be gleaned from examining how her father treated her or how he treated her mother. As she opens chapters of her life story that have remained closed for too long, she will begin to see why she pursues emotionally unavailable men and why she feels unworthy of real love. She will understand that she hasn't been the victim of bad luck in love, but locked in a pattern established long ago.

Knowledge is power. Armed with the truth about her life story, this woman can put the past where it belongs-behind her. She will no longer be forced into repeating the same mistakes. She can begin to understand her behavior and choose a more equal relationship with the potential for real intimacy.

Our problems aren't accidents. Unsuitable partners don't merely show up on our doorsteps; we choose them because of ill-formed ideas about what we deserve. We find ourselves in unsatisfying careers because something early on told us that we couldn't enjoy work, or make money, or take leadership roles. Our frustration with our children doesn't mean we simply are bad parents; it may well mean that our own upbringing contained messages that parenting was a battle of wills instead of an act of love.

These painful pages of our current and future life stories will continue to be written so long as we choose to ignore their origins in the earlier chapters of our lives. That's why the greatest promise for personal growth is looking in the mirror, in order to see behind you.

So forget about just doing it better, or hoping that your luck improves, or, even worse, resigning yourself to the idea that "this is just the way things are."Whatever your problem is, it likely has roots in your past, in avoiding a healing and empowering reckoning with your earlier life experiences. Taking Step Two means turning in the direction of what you haven't been willing to look at, and keeping your eyes wide open.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at