Henko: Changing Without Going Back

· October 27, 2018

Henko is a Japanese word that refers to a transformative change where there’s no possibility of going back to how we once were. In many cases, it represents an advancement in our personal growth. It’s proof that we should be able to bet on ourselves and our own abilities. Henko is that inflection point that lifts us up and above our fear and worries, transforming our internal attitudes.

Having the ability to transform, evolve, advance, and expand our level of consciousness are the keys to overcoming obstacles. We must be able to do this in order to get rid of self-doubt and become stronger. Henko is the fruit of our resilience.

“In life, we have to give up part of who we are in order to become what we really can be. The change is not gratuitous and it only feeds us if it leads us to transformation.”

-Alex Rovira-

Change to advance

We could solve a lot of our difficulties if we introduced henko, a transformative change, into our lives. The problem is that most of the time we’re not willing to do this. Maybe we’re not sure how to go about making a change or it might seem scary because it’s new.

For example, we know that some people prefer to stay in their comfort zone, using the same coping strategies despite feeling terrible. In fact, sometimes they have to make a real effort because a change wouldn’t happen naturally otherwise.

The truth is that the unknown makes all of us uneasy. The things we can’t predict and escape our calculations are totally out of our control. Hence, when we mismanage this uneasiness, we end up emotionally exhausted. We choose to stand our ground instead of embracing the necessary change. In this sense, there could be many reasons for a transformation. However, these three elements need to exist in order to make a change: conviction, desire, and motivation.

A man looking at the sea.

Taking a risk

The risk of change is imprinted in who we are. It’s part of us. We need to take advantage of that internal feeling and use it to push forward. We need to be fearless and ready for the moment when our feet won’t be touching the ground.


Now let’s be clear. Not every change or experience is going to transform us. Sometimes we make a first order change. When this happens, we “make a change” but eventually find ourselves stuck in the same routine or acting as we used to.

To grow and start a new path, we have to introduce a higher level of change. Paul Watzlawick would say we need to make a second order change. Now, what does this mean?

Types of change according to Paul Watzlawick

The experts in system theories consider that there are two opposing tendencies when it comes to change. The first has to do with keeping us in a stable, stationary state. The second tendency has to do with producing new forms, both derived from the mathematical theory of logical types.

Austrian psychologist Paul Watzlawick called these trends change 1, or first order, and change 2, or second order. To explain both, he used the following example. A person who has a nightmare can do many things within the nightmare: run, hide, scream, etc. However, no change in one of these behaviors can end the nightmare.

This type of change is called type 1 change. This is because the nightmare includes modifications and strategies that have to do with the same dynamic in which the person finds themselves. They’re based on negative feedback.

On the other hand, he called type 2 change something that occurs qualitatively and is based on positive feedback. Thus, it increases deviations and gives way to new structure formation. If we take into account the previous example, type 2 change is waking up. The only way out of the nightmare would be a change in the dream, reality, or perspective.

Making type 2 changes

We can find another example in the case of psychology and treatment. Some parents request psychological help when their child’s school performance drops. Surely, the parents have carried out some kind of action such as punishment, reducing extracurricular activities, or not letting them go out with friends.

These are type 1 changes. The problem is that they can’t solve the situation. Now, the therapist analyzes and interviews the different family members. They observe that the child’s grandmother and older sister have gone to live at home. This has changed the dynamics of the relationships between all the family members. What would the type 2 change be in this case? The change would have to modify the way the family members relate to one another and adapt to the new situation. 

Perhaps we can better understand the concept if we think of a person who’s started to feel sad, apathetic, and unmotivated. In their attempt to improve their mood, they decide to join a gym, go out more, and experiment with creative ventures. These are all type 1 changes. The problem is that, despite all this, they still aren’t feeling good and they’re rather distracted. What can they do? Introduce a type 2 change: change their perspective, their vision of reality, and manage their feelings. This will really enable them to make a transformative change.

“Change is inevitable. Changing for the better is a full-time job.”

-Adlai E. Stevenson-

Henko: A change, a new destiny

As we can see, change is a phenomenon that includes several dimensions, especially if we want to transcend and provoke a henko. It’s not enough for us to just want to change and start doing something new. If we really want to start seeing the world in a new way, we have to analyze our perspective and how it impacts our daily lives.

We can think that our vision of reality is perfectly fine and that the world must behave according to our ideas. However, how can we be so sure of that? Isn’t it true that two people can observe the same event in totally different ways? The truth is that each one of us builds and works with our own individual and hardly interchangeable reality. Therefore, why not investigate other visions and perceptions to solve our problems?

Questioning our reality

It’s true that this isn’t an easy thing to do. Questioning our world isn’t something that we can do in a short time. In fact, we won’t be satisfied until we’re in harmony with our true nature, a worry-free nature. We’ll only be able to reach well-being if we leave our ego behind.

A woman experiencing henko.

A transformative change, a henko, is an exercise in courage in which we face ourselves and our comfort zone. We must disassemble the walls we’ve been building for years and the ideas that used to make our lives easier.

In this sense, we’re our most complicated opponent, but also the one with all the knowledge. We can offer ourselves the possibility of self-empowerment if we don’t let ourselves get carried away by mental games. Although change is constant in our universe, being aware of that change helps us evolve. The important thing is to illuminate the paths that help us to grow. We must use what we’ve learned along the way to become enlightened.

Henko is the opportunity to be reborn through peace and personal strength.