Why we fear change

The unknown can be frightening.

According to futurist Ray Kurzweil we have enteried an age of acceleration during which the rate of change we will encounter is increasing exponentially. In fact, Kurzweil estimates that the changes that take place in the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate. Wow! If Kurzweil is correct, that’s a lot change for us to endure and it is likely to occur simultaneously in all aspects of society.

But most of us are actually suspicious and fearful of change, preferring the presumed safety of status quo. In fact, much of the “anti-progress” movement seen in the US in the past few years is just a backlash from the changes that have already taken place—a fear-based desperate attempt to slow down the inevitable progression of life. And even those who label themselves as liberal or progressive are not immune to reactive behavior if one of their own favorite causes or projects faces the threat of change.

In order to find a way to cope with the prospect of rapid change in the coming century, we must first understand why we human beings are so afraid of change in the first place. Where does this resistance come from? Here are some of the contributing factors:

  • Degree of comfort with our current situation. When things are going well there is no question that we will see no reason for change and resist any attempts at change. And if change is forced upon us we will push to return to the “old days,” which we remember as being ideal. Comfort leads to complacency, which sees no need for progress or growth.
  • Functioning at our most primitive emotional level. For the cave man, mere survival was all that mattered and any change was perceived as a threat to existence. If we are unable to live at a higher level of consciousness then we will cling to our survival mentality and destroy everything around us that represents change.
  • Forgetting that change is the natural order of the Universe. It’s true – if you look at the natural world you will see changes constantly taking place. In fact, no one moment is the same as another: the stream flows continuously, the clouds float by without stopping, the flowers bloom and die in a perpetual cycle. Change is necessary for growth and life to occur and we are part of this ever-changing cycle of life, no matter how much we may dislike that fact.
  • Believing that security lies in sameness and predictability. In reality, we are most secure when we remain flexible and adaptable, for then we can cope with anything that arises. Resisting change causes stiffness and rigidity, which increase the likelihood of being injured or broken down during stressful times.
  • Seeing external forces as threats to our security. We are actually our own worst enemies because we harbor suspicions and animosity toward others and believe we must protect ourselves from them. But the most serious threats to our existence come from within us – from our own unhealed Shadow wounds that cause us to live in fear. When we can relax and live in trust our external “enemies” will largely disappear and we can face change with equanimity.
  • Failing to recognize that we are All One. When we see that our lives are intertwined with all other life on the planet we can enter into the natural flow of existence and become much more comfortable with the idea of change. But our perception of being “special” or separate from all other life causes us to hold tenaciously to our current situation and lash out in anger toward everything that represents change.

There is no doubt that change is on the horizon for each and every one of us and that it will not be an easy challenge to face. But if we learn to overcome our fear of change we can be prepared for and open to whatever comes our way, able to ride the waves of change and possibly even enjoy the process. Tomorrow’s post will explore this topic further with ways to overcome our fear of change.

Karen Wyatt MD is a family physician who has spent much of her 25 year medical career working with patients in challenging settings, such as hospice, nursing homes and indigent clinics. She is interested in a spiritual approach to medicine, illness, death and dying and is the author of two books. Check out her website at www.karenwyattmd.com
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Author: kwyatt

Karen Wyatt MD is a family physician who has spent much of her 25 year medical career working with patients in challenging settings, such as hospice, nursing homes and indigent clinics. She is interested in a spiritual approach to medicine, illness, death and dying and is the author of two books. Check out her website at www.karenwyattmd.com