Change is an unavoidable element of life. How we navigate change directly affects our health. It’s something that comes regardless of what we do or don’t do. I feel like it’s similar to death…inevitable. You can’t stop it from coming. You have no idea when it may come and you worry about how you will handle it when it does.
The more we can ALLOW change…the less stress we experience…the healthier we are.
So what is the hardest part about change?
I didn’t have a healthy relationship with my mom growing up. She’s a beautiful, kind soul that really just wants to love and help everyone. Her upbringing, however, taught her that the world is a scary place and you need to play by the rules in order to be safe and respected.
When I was growing up this played out as me, testing the limits and wanting desperately to “step out of the box” so that I could embrace my creative nature, and her, responding by trying to pull me back into the box so that I would be safe. As a result of this dance that we did I came to internalize beliefs that everything I did was wrong (especially if I “got out of line”) and that there was something wrong with me for even wanting to step out of the box.
It’s taken a long time to identify and CHANGE this story. This past week I was given a reminder of it. I don’t hold those beliefs about myself anymore but it is funny how a triggering situation can easily take you back to that old, familiar place. I felt ALL the feels of those shaming beliefs. It made me angry that I was feeling that way. The anger reminded me that while I can think differently in my mind, my body can still hold the wound. If the wound is still there it can be triggered, releasing the old feels.
This is actually a really good thing and the anger can be an excellent ally. It shows us where the tension is. In this instance it was showing me the tension I still held from this old wound. I was reminded that I can see this old, familiar place and release my feelings around it without having to “be” it, freeing me up to further deepen into change.
This experience lead me to ponder what has been the hardest part about changing my story.
What stumps us when we are attempting to “step out of the box” or “go against the grain” and embrace who we really are?
This of course is not limited to my example but can be applied to ANY of the changes in life, big or small. Whether they arise of their own volition or are changes you are actively trying to make. The things that I experienced over the years and the things that I see patients struggle with when it comes to change are what make up this list of the top reasons change can feel hard.
The Top Factors that Make Change Feel Hard:
Your Closest Relationships
Many years ago I read the book, “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. and then later her sequel “The Dance of Intimacy”. It TOTALLY opened my eyes to the patterns we all step into in our most intimate relationships. It was fascinating to me to learn that we are like a flock of birds…each responding to the movements of the other in an almost poetic rhythm.
When you begin to change the steps of the dance, your relationships have to adapt. They don’t really know the new steps yet so they try to continue with the old steps. This doesn’t fit for you anymore and creates tension in the relationship. Unintentionally your relationships attempt to pull you back into what is familiar. As a result, you may find yourself dancing alone for awhile. If walking alone or ostracized from your tribe hurts too much, you might throw in the towel on your changes and return to the old dance.
Your Future Plan
It’s pretty normal to create an image or hold an ideal for how we’d like to see our future play out but when something sudden happens that sends you down a different trajectory, it can be really difficult to let go of the ideal. The example that comes to mind here is when you’re in a romantic relationship with someone. The someone decides abruptly they don’t see a future with you or worse yet they are killed and taken from your life far sooner than you expected. In either case you would’ve been planning what your future with this person could look like. Now that they are no longer in your life you have to face a new future without them. You are forced to change your plan.
Holding on to Your Past
I think most of us know that holding on to the past can keep us from living in the present. That doesn’t mean though that when life throws us a curve ball we are ready to accept it. You may spend a long time holding on to what has been lost. A much lighter example than my previous one, would be when you decide to incorporate a healthy eating plan. You may struggle to stick to it because all you can focus on are the foods that have been taken away. You may feel very restricted (like me as a kid, trying to step out of the box). That restricted feeling makes you resist and fight the change even more. But when you can shift your focus to see everything that you stand to gain, it can be much easier to let go of what is in the past.
How Can You Navigate Change with More Ease:
ASK for help
Seems so simple but yet when we are in the midst of turmoil, it’s the first thing we forget to do. This is probably the single most useful thing you can do when trying to navigate change. You can ask people.. reach out to people you trust, or professionals (health care practitioners, coaches, therapists, etc.) If you don’t feel comfortable with people…talk to God (or whatever entity you may feel comfortable with). You don’t have to believe in God or a religion to pray. Prayer is incredibly powerful. There is a reason people say “ask and you shall receive”. It can truly be as simple as “help me change ___”. Just don’t have any expectations on HOW or WHEN you will receive.
If you are walking alone with your changes, you could be less likely to stick to them. If you rally some kind of support around you your odds increase tenfold. Support will increase your conviction with your new direction. Again, you can talk to people, a group, or professional support to help you navigate this time of uncertainty. OR you can incorporate a more ethereal practice. Visualization works wonders for increasing the feelings that you want to embrace in your life.
If you need help navigating change or incorporating some of the suggestions I have mentioned, please send me a message or give me a call. I’d be happy to guide you on your journey 🙂