What is change? Why do so many of us fear it?
In psychology, change is viewed as a positive aspect of a crisis as it provides the opportunity to do things differently. Yet, people fear change. Change of jobs, neighborhoods or schools. As life occurs, we inevitably experience change. There is the natural process of change, infant to toddler, school age child to adolescent and young adult to older adult. There are the biological changes and environmental changes. Some changes are self-generated and under our own control. Some changes can be dependent on encounters with others – family, friends, colleagues and intimates. Many changes occur as a result of circumstances or fate, the proverbial “date with destiny.”
Change is inevitable and it can disrupt the usual flow of our lives, but it also provides the opportunity to examine our lives and decide whether to stay the course or to change our direction. We can meet the change with acceptance and gratitude or with bitterness and resistance. If we deny ourselves the opportunity to explore the change, to understand it and to decide how it will be perceived and processed in our file of life, we can be deprived of the invaluable gift in powerful lessons. In the Psychology Today journal, Dr. Abigail Brenner wrote, “Change without transition may only serve to recreate old scenarios and reinforce old patterns of behavior – for change to have a salutary effect on us we need to learn – to effectively work with it and not to run the other way when it presents itself.”
When my son was 4-years old he began to cry when he found out that I traded our propane tank for another one. I wasn’t able to find a replacement for our current tank, so I resorted to trading in my empty canister for a full one at my local grocery. My son noticed the subtle differences between the one we had and this new “borrowed” one. Through his tears he voiced that he did not get a chance to say good-bye to it and that he would miss it. Change. We continually move toward it, looking to better ourselves, to improve our lifestyle, but yet, when change stares us in the eyes, we shutter at the prospects of what it will be, what this stranger offers, and if it can be trusted.
For many of us, even the idea of change is often overwhelming and anxiety-provoking. For some, change is something to be avoided at all cost. It is important to recognize those transformative moments and find the valuable lessons in your change moments.
- Write a list of changes in your life.
- Identify which changes were self-generated changes.
- Identify which changes were out of our control.
- Make a list of all the perceived negatives from this change.
- Make a list of the valuable insights you gained.
- Make a list of all the powerful lessons learned.
- Finally, choose one of the items from your change list and write about it in detail. Maybe you were not able to see the gifts at the time of the change but now you can write through that change memory to identify the gifts now.
I recently had a new stone patio put in my backyard. There had been extensive water damage that required the removal of the deck. Once the drainage was addressed and a beautiful new stone patio was complete, I asked by 3-year-old grandson if he liked this new patio. His response surprised me. “No”. He informed me that he missed the other one, the wood one with the rotting boards and uneven planks – he missed that one. The wood deck was all he had knew. It was that wood deck where we played shaving cream games, tossing hands full of the thick white foam at each other, smearing it into each other’s hair and making designs and faces in the foam. The wood deck was where we sat on summer mornings and drank some chai tea, clanking our mugs together shouting “salud” as we giggled and took our first gulp. The wood planks became roadways for his Tonka trucks, that he raced back and forth for hours, crashing them into the side of the house while laughing and declaring a winner of the race.
The deck had several tears from the previous owner. She had an above ground -pool and the tears were like steps leading to the pool. I removed that pool my first week living in the house, not wanting to be a slave to the maintenance and winter care. The tears are now dangerous if you are not watching your step. But for my grandson, they were mountains that he would jump off of to the lower level. He was so proud of himself for the great height he concurred and demanded applause from all of us. Those variations in height became cliffs that his trucks would drive off and an ambulance would rush to the scene and magically fix the trucks and declare that no one was hurt as they were returned to the higher level of the deck once again. For my grandson, his mountains were removed, the cliffs were gone and possibly, he feared, that memories attached to those rotted wood planks, to the uneven deck that sagged under our feet were also gone. Change. He voiced not wanting the change, not being happy about the change.
This was a needed change but certainly not one I openly embraced because of the extensive work and expense to resolve the water damage. It was a change that came from necessity and safety and at a time it determined when it would be addressed – not me. I do, however, love the ease of movement now, the freedom of setting up my patio, arranging my furniture any way I desire without level constraints or safety issues. I love the solidness under my feet. The shades of burnt sienna, crimson alizarin, burnt umber and black stones remind me of the rawness of the desert landscape that I once enjoyed. My grandson has now moved his attention to the hill in the yard and rolls down it and sends his trucks flying down. Both him and his Pitbull sister, Raven, happily chase them and romp about racing to reach the truck first. He appears to have discovered another source of fun, reaching beyond the borders of the old wood deck and creating new play scenarios and even making space for his dog to join in. Change.