Since change is the only constant in our lives, why is it so frightening to choose to change? Often it is thrust upon us and we didn’t see it coming. It may come in a way that cuts us off at the knees, such as having life, as we know it obliterated, like a tornado or hurricane. Somehow when such happens, time and time again we observe people having the courage and determination to reach down into their reservoir of resilience to deal with catastrophe. Where did all their courage, fearlessness, faith, determination come from, we ask ourselves. How were they able to do it? For most of us it takes a crisis, a howling hurt, to send us into that deep well of greater capacity.
“This is the charged, the dangerous moment, when everything must be reexamined, must be made new, when nothing at all can be taken for granted” – James Baldwin.
Certainly, we all have reservoirs of courage and sometimes in a big crisis we are able to activate that side of ourselves more readily. In such times we do not have time to weigh the consequence of change. Right along side of the source of our courage is our island of fear our cowardice. On a day-to-day basis when we take time to examine the changes we need to make, fear tends to jump in and become “top dog”. Instead of encouraging impulsivity, it is better to become more aware of our inner landscape. We need to make friends with that inner, fearful, part of us that is actually running the show.
Life altering changes occur swiftly, sometimes violently without choice or plan. Often the small, necessary accumulative changes cause the most discomfort, leading to avoidance and procrastination. Anxiety mounts, because there is no guarantee that if we do this thing differently, there will be a certain result in a timely manner. In essence we have “the fear of change” as well as “the desire to change.” Desire motivates while fear creates resistance, thus impending the process. Change, by its very nature, creates ambivalence. The desire to change and the desire to maintain the status quo coexist for a reason. We actually do have to know “when to hold them and when to fold them” (Kenny Rogers). Self-trust is integral to change; because, the changes we make will not be meaningful if they result from someone else’s direction.
Every human has the impulse for growth, as well as the need to stay safe and stable. When facing change, should we change quickly or is it better to approach it cautiously? Each of us has our own personal signature, or pattern, when initiating change – some slow, some fast.
My signature or pattern tends to resemble the inchworm or turtle approach when major changes are needed. Often fear prevents me from making a leap all at once, I keep my goal in sight and inch my way towards the desired outcome. It is not easy facing fears and limitations, but there comes a time when change has to be faced squarely, head-on. I take steps necessary to move myself forward, inch by excruciating inch, believing that slow is better than not at all!
Our culture is becoming increasingly obsessed with speed, fostering a belief that faster is better. Often forgotten is that change is a process and takes time. Changes need to be investigated in light of your needs and after some pursuit of self-discovery. Just because there is pressure to do things speedily, does not mean this way is right.
When society geared up to do everything swiftly, the process of change is often devalued. Superficial changes may occur swiftly. A spouse about to lose a marriage stops treatment after a couple sessions because things are “much better now.” This is an example of superficial change that may last about six weeks. It is like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. The underlying problem has not been resolved, so it will return.
The degree of resistance experienced when serious change is being considered is often an indication that there are unexamined core beliefs that must be addressed. Core beliefs are ingrained early in life when we are indeed helpless, powerless, and unable to make conscious or intelligent choices. Although core beliefs can enhance the quality of our life they can also severely limit manifestation. It is those limiting beliefs that have wide ranging consequences that not only determine our level of self-esteem and self-worth; as well as influence happiness and satisfaction in life. So change is dependent on modifying faulty beliefs after examination.
When we are facing change, the conditioning and core beliefs that cause the most conflict are not really known to us. Everything that has happened to us since birth creates underpinnings that are held in the unconscious. The power of the unconscious mind can be used for us or against us, as an ally or an enemy.
“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” CG Jung.
Analogous to the iceberg, only ten percent being visible, it is widely accepted that the unconscious mind represents that which is unseen and unknown, representing the ninety percent below the surface. Most of us go through life about ten percent in charge of what we are doing, having the illusion that our conscious decisions and our willpower, and determination will override obstacles.
A client, we will call Joe, illustrated the power of the unconscious and the conflict that became evident when tried to quit smoking. Joe, 37, had attempted to quit several times previously, however any progress made was short lived. Joe had made the conscious decision to quit smoking for health concerns. Although Joe was aware that smoking lessened or alleviated his anxiety, especially in social situations; he wanted to hold onto the “cool” imprint and did not want to gain weight. He associated weight gain with looking older, thus in conflict with being youthful and carefree. It was evident that there was a going to be a tug of war between conscious wanting and his unconscious beliefs.
Joe was harsh with him-self and attributed his “failure” to a lack of willpower. We learned, through hypnosis, that although his conscious mind said, “yes” to quitting, his unconscious said “no.” His earlier efforts to quit neither befriended nor addressed the obstacles in his unconscious.
Joe’s history of smoking held clues that contributed to his conflict. He began smoking at 16, when he started to drive. Succumbing to peer pressure he found smoking to be a “grown up” prop, which helped to alleviate some of his anxiety around girls. Smoking was also associated with being “cool”. In Joe’s memory bank smoking had a strong association with the carefree days of youth.
Through hypnosis we worked together to create an agreement that was harmonious and accepted by the conscious and unconscious mind. Shortly thereafter, his unconscious released its hold on core issues, accepted some new beliefs, and modified the unconscious power that had been keeping him stuck. Strengthening new beliefs in keeping with his desire for a healthier life style, he learned other ways to lessen anxiety.
Carl Jung, an enlightened psychotherapist, spoke of the consequences resulting from not facing our unconscious and the shadows within it. It uses one’s behavior to communicate. When you do not understand or cannot explain what came over you saying: “I wasn’t myself, it much have been the wine, I would never behave like that in my ‘right’ mind,” meaning conscious mind, guess who is running the show? If you find yourself in a tug of war between changing and not changing, recognize that your conscious and unconscious are in conflict. There are ways of learning what is brewing in your unconscious, through reflection, dreams, journaling, meditation, hypnosis, to name a few. What methods are you willing to use? It might be a good idea to seek professional help if you have conflict that cannot be resolved by the above techniques.
“Man is asked to make of himself what he is supposed to become to fulfill his destiny” Paul Tillich
Change! Even though you have fear in your belly or jelly in your knees. Change! Even though your heart is breaking, and the illusions have collapsed. If you wait until it is the right day and when the fears are gone to tackle change, it is unlikely to happen. If you are distressed with life, it is important to remember that uncertainties, adversities and disappointments in life are a given. Real life IS messy, painful, and alive; it is NOT neat, linear or controlled. Can you change in such a climate? Yes! Yes! Yes!
“Life, willing to surpass itself, is the good life, and the good life is the courageous life.” Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be.