“We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what in the morning was true will in evening become a lie.” – Carl Jung
Life – at work, at home, at play, and in relationship – evolves daily, even moment to moment.”
We’ve heard the expression “Change is the one constant in life.” Every day we experience change in some way, shape or form. For many, change is unsettling – it unearths our feelings of insecurity, instability and disharmony.
The pain and suffering of change
These uncomfortable feelings and emotions do not come from the change itself. Rather, our experience of the pain and suffering we experience with change results not from the experience of change, but from efforting to hold on – to the past, to familiar ways of thinking, be-ing and do-ing. Perhaps you’ve recently reacted to, or resisted calls for, change in your work, in your life at home, in your relationships or even in the habits and patterns you’re accustomed to in your play and recreation.
Fear of change
Underneath our reactivity to change is some type of fear – e.g., fear of the unknown, fear of new ways of doing things or thinking about things, fear about having to learn something new, fear of letting go, fear of being different and the like. This fear presents a tremendous opportunity for personal and professional growth. How so?
When we experience our fear around change, a powerful question to explore is, “What am I afraid of?” This exploration allows us to dig deeper and understand what’s beneath our fear – an opportunity to see what we can learn about our fear, what fear is telling us. If we enter this exploration from a place of curiosity, rather than from self-judgment (i.e., feeling “bad” or “wrong” with our discomfort around change), we can begin to be at peace with our fear. We can watch it. We can observe it as it moves through us. But we don’t have to “become” it. We can just be with it.
Rather than denying our fear, talking a detour to move around it and bypass it, suppressing it or controlling it, we can lovingly and compassionately invite ourselves to come into direct contact with our fear and see what it wants to teach us about ourselves.
Fear can lead to love
Fear and love are on opposite ends of a continuum. The more we can be with our fear, allow it, understand it and learn from it, the greater our ability to experience life from the love side of the continuum – where change is not so threatening. On the love (of ourself) side, we feel less resistance to change, we are more capable of “going with the flow,” we have less need to control, and surprisingly, we find we are more trusting when change happens – at work, at home, at play and in relationship.
The first step towards being OK with change is acceptance – acceptance not of the change, but acceptance of ourself, of our fears around the change, believing that it’s OK to feel our feelings. The next step is to go inside and explore what’s underneath our fears. Really explore and not try to “think” our fear away (an art form in Western culture).
Once you accept yourself as you face change, you become more clear about the causes of your fear, your reactivity and resistance. You develop the capacity to be more open to allow change. Exploring your fear from this place will lead you to “right knowing,” “right understanding” and “right action” with respect to the change.
Tension leads to growth
The beauty of the fear, and the tension around it, is that without tension growth is not possible. A seed cannot grow without tension. Some seeds need cold, some need warmth. When seeds begin to grow, they meet the resistance of their shell. As such, they need to push through the soil – some even need to push through concrete or macadam – and then against gravity and the wind. The deal is that none of these resistance elements inhibits the seed from growing but, rather, they enhance its growth into a mature and strong plant. This is why fear is an opportunity for growth.
So, at work, and at home, at play and in relationship, we can learn to grow through change – we cannot change and grow while resisting, defending and holding on to the status quo, hanging on to dear life. Change is not a threat to growth but, rather, an integral part of it.
Resisting change for the illusion of “comfort”
Many folks resist change in order to remain “comfortable.” But, the comfort they wish to hang on to is “wrapped” in fear, in a quiet or not-so-quiet mental/emotional state of vigilance or subtle agitation masquerading as “comfort” (always fearful that something or someone will “change”). In this place of “faux” comfort, one cannot experience true and real comfort, true and real inner harmony and peace. What these folks really want is harmony; what they really experience is inertia and numbness.
Harmony comes when one is at peace with one’s life and one’s environment, when one is open to change and adaptation – not resistant to it.
Hanging on for dear life, does not result in a dear life. It results in tension, stress, anxiety, resistance and resentment.
Exploring our fear and resistance is the pathway to harmony and inner peace, personal and professional growth, development, equanimity and balance.
Finally, remember, life is change. Life is choices. Whether you embrace change or come to it kicking and screaming is your choice. We cannot grow and thrive without change, conflict and tension. Avoiding change, denying change, resisting change keeps us feeling like a victim, always wanting to blame someone or something for the way we feel.
When we choose to explore our resistance and fear around change, we learn more about ourselves, become stronger, more courageous, more autonomous, more willful, and more engaged in living life.
Change is an opportunity for us to navigate our world with our eyes “wide open,” not “wide shut.” Change allows us to grow our minds, stretch beyond our mental limits and emotional boundaries. Change allows us to move through life with a greater degree of trust, freedom and harmony.
Moving beyond your fear
So, here’s an exercise to support you to move beyond your fear:
Acknowledge and really feel your fear without judging and criticizing yourself.
Ask your fear what it’s there to tell you. Be alert for inner messages that will bring you greater understanding of your situation. Listen with your heart, your inner self, not your “logical, ego mind.”
Be fully present. Relax into your body. Breathe deeply and continuously into you belly.
Ask your higher self: “What can I do to improve my situation? What do I need to know and understand?”
Taking action on what you discover helps get your energy moving. (Action absorbs anxiety; paralysis doesn’t.)
Some questions for self-reflection:
- What is your greatest fear? Why do you fear what you’re fearing? How so?
- Are there aspects of yourself you reject? How so?
- Where are you experiencing tension or conflict in your life? Where are you struggling to face major challenges? (career, home, play, relationship, finances, health, emotions, etc.?)
- Do you face change with ATTENTION or TENSION?
- How can you use tension and conflict to grow stronger, and become more authentic, as you?
- What is a current change or conflict in your life telling you? What area of potential is it pointing to? What quality about your self is it pointing to? How so?
- Are your current tensions or conflicts the same as last year, the year before and the year before that? If so, why?
- Would you characterize yourself as an embracer of change or a victim of change? Why?
- Do you feel you have the right and the power to decide how anyone or anything can affect you?
- Would your colleagues, friends or family say you most often embrace change or resist change?
- Are you hanging on for dear life in some way, shape or form in your life?
- How did you and your family deal with change as you were growing up?
(c) 2018, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.
What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”
I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.
I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.