The art of psychological flexibility

Published on November 13, 2019

Max has a constant desire to be in control.  When he is not in control, he does not feel safe.  Because of this need to be in control, Max can be quite rigid.  This rigidity has taken a toll on his relationships, both personally and professionally. Others have become angry at his rigidity.  He refuses to compromise on time, places to go, and how people should treat him.  His friends have stopped calling him because of his lack of flexibility. At work, Max breaks out into a sweat at any change in software, routine or management.  He has been known to lash out at others when they do not follow his way. When people do not do what he wants them too, he bullies them, intimidates them, and tries to get others to turn against people. He has lost romantic partners because he tries to isolate them because he wants all theattention for himself.   This only further alienates and confuses Max.  Why are people butting heads with me? Why don’t they just listen?  

Psychological flexibility allows room for growth, personal development and healthy relationships. Without flexibility, it is easier to feel depressed, anxious and angry. Flexibility is an art form that can be learned and developed over time.  

Here are some pointers:

Be open to others  

Being open to others means being able to hear what another person has to say, to the other’s views and opinions.  We all come from different backgrounds and have different life experiences. This makes life exciting but sometimes frustrating.  If you don’t understand what another person needs, ask them.   

Accept what you cannot change

Understand that we cannot change people or events. We can support others, and we can help them, but we cannot change them. Forcing others to do what you want only pushes them away.  You might intimidate them into staying with you, but eventually, they will grow tired and leave. If there are things that you cannot change at work, can you accept them? If there are things that can positively change at work, try to implement it or speak to someone who can help you to achieve it.  Forcing your ideas or routines on others does not work.

Be patient with yourself and others

Everyone has flaws and weaknesses, expecting perfection from yourself and others is not possible. Be patient with yourself.  Change is a process, and it takes time.   

You can handle it

Understanding that you can handle situations can help you to let go of control. Being in control feels safe because of the false belief that you can predict how people and events will go.  If you understand that life and people are unpredictable, but you can manage situations, flexibility will be more effortless.

Seek help

A trained professional can help you to look at your thinking patterns, relationship history and help you to develop and grow. Overly rigid people do not believe that they need therapy; it is everyone else’s problem, not theirs. This attitude pushes people further and further away from you.  

Don’t place judgement

Placing judgement leads to more rigidity because if people are not up to your standards, you will not accept them or be open to them. Being flexible means, you can flow with life like riding a surfboard. Whatever comes your way can be managed. Blaming and attacking people encourages them to avoid you.


If you would like to set up an appointment to talk through any emotional issues that you might be feeling, please contact me on +852 2521 4668 or email You can book a private or Skype session.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions, Anxiety, Life Purpose / Meaning / Inner-Guidance, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Dr Borschel specialises in Attachment and Loss. She is experienced in helping adults, teens, children, and families adjust to anxiety, trauma, abuse, divorce, separation, or loss of a loved one.

Dr. Borschel’s attachment-based therapy along with EMDR and brainspotting, enables her clients to find healing within themselves. In so doing, she can help adults, teens, and children to overcome grief, anxiety, trauma, neglect, emotional, verbal, physical abuse, and child abuse.

Furthermore, as an attachment specialist, she also helps individuals understand relationship patterns which prevent them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships. She is able to help reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and promote confidence and self-esteem. This may include deciding what is in the best interest of the children during custody disputes, strengthening the relationship and communication between the parents and the children.

Dr. Borschel is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. She graduated with her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in New York City. She later moved to Hong Kong to pursue her doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in Social Work and Social Administration.

Registered Clinical Psychologist with The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology. Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), The British Psychological Society (BPS), the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA) and EMDRIA certified therapist.

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