We are familiar with the Greek philosopher Heraclitus’ statement, “Change is the only constant” in life. However, as much as this is true we often find change difficult.
We balk or flat-out resist change in a number of ways. We avoid by leaving the room or the relationship when the topic of change comes up. We do anything else but the needed change. We eat or clean, make lists and putter for hours. We rationalize (‘It won’t work out anyway.”), use limitations (‘I’m too old.’), and use delay tactics (‘I’ll do it later.’) The poet W.H. Auden wrote, “We would rather be ruined than changed; We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
Another way we resist change is by denial. Denial occurs when our psyche literally shuts out what is unbearable or unbelievable. We find our self saying, “There’s nothing wrong with me” or “It didn’t bother you last time.” Denial is a defense mechanism for coping with uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety and guilt as we momentarily ponder the change. We have knowledge of what needs to change yet choose not to deal with it.
One of the biggest obstacles to change is fear – with fears of the unknown, of rejection, of lack of control, and of being alone strongly influencing our hesitation. Inner voices say, “What will the neighbours or my family think?” or “I might fail, and then what?”
We spend great amounts of energy hoping and waiting for situations and others to change. We look outwardly instead of inwardly. We blame and make excuses instead of taking responsibility. Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing him/herself.”
How do we evoke a needed change? Start by looking your self in the mirror and saying aloud, “I want to change.” Notice any hesitations, inner voices talking back, the amount of commitment or your energy level when saying this. What fears, old beliefs and resistances are surfacing? What is in the way?
When we honestly look at what we resist most we are at the same time looking at a source of great learning. The writer Alan Cohen stated, “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.”
Trust that with change there will be growth. The political poet Tuli Kupferberg stated, “When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” However, there will also be losses, pain and suffering. This is where our fears enter. Recall the sacrifice-death-rebirth cycle. There cannot be change, something new, without a letting go and a loss of some aspect of your self. An unknown author wrote, “Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” Honestly reflect upon what you are afraid to let go of.
An inspiring image for change is offered by the writer Geoffrey Madan: “The dust of exploded beliefs may make a fine sunset.” Ah. I wonder how your sunset will look and feel like as you make the necessary changes in your life.