How to get over it and change anyway!

We have to learn to take risks.

If you haven’t already done so you may want to read part 1 of this series for a discussion on “why we fear change.” This entry will continue the theme by delving into some practical ways to cope with change and overcome our fear. Since we cannot stop change, which is the first fact we must accept, then we’d better figure how we are going to live with it or we are likely to do ourselves harm by resisting the inevitable.

If you are in a life situation or a group that is being confronted right now with the prospect of a painful change, take heart: you are not alone. As pointed out in the previous article the rate of change is accelerating for all of us and will continue to do so. Gone are the days when things seemed to stay the same for years on end. Now we will be lucky to have a few weeks of stability at any one time, so get used to the reality of change.

Before we look further into some ideas for overcoming our fears, here is one very important caveat to remember:

It is easier to hate someone else than it is to face your own fears and shortcomings. 

Never forget this fact because in the middle of your struggles with change the opportunity and the temptation will surely arise to blame someone else for the situation you are in. Do not get thrown off course and begin pointing fingers at someone else or projecting out hatred toward them just because you don’t know what to do with your own problems. You will spin out of control if you fall to that temptation and you might not recover. Hating others is a tremendous waste of time and energy that serves no purpose and obscures the real work you are supposed to be doing so do not go there!

Now for some suggestions about how to transcend fear and gracefully manage change in order to bring about new growth:

  • Reach out to others. Remember, as mentioned already, you are not alone in this crazy accelerating world of change. Other people and groups are also facing their own challenges and changes. Network with them and spend some time sharing ideas: How are they coping? What’s working for them? How you can you help one another?
  • Learn something new. Sometimes we resist change simply because we don’t want to admit that we don’t know enough about the new process that is going to take place. Read a book, take a workshop, listen to a podcast and update your knowledge on the area of your life that is facing change. Knowing more about the options for the future will help you feel more confident and able to handle anything that comes along.
  • Take small risks in the beginning. In order to adapt gradually to the idea of change, figure out if you can break the process down into small steps. For example, if you find out you must change your diet because of a health problem, give yourself a few weeks to complete the total change and begin with a few small changes, like cutting down on desserts, that you can accomplish now and then build upon over time.
  • Invite your “enemies” to the table. Once again, recall from the previous post that the reason you believe you have enemies is because you are frightened of change and see others as threatening you. But it can be exhilarating to actually sit down in civil conversation with those you fear and discover that they are afraid too! All of our conflicts with others are actually driven by our fears and their fears, and if you are able to come together face-to-face and acknowledge how afraid you are, then tremendous progress can be made. However, remember the caveat:

It is easier to hate someone else than it is to face your own fears and shortcomings.

If you are not ready to let go of your own tendency to hate as a cover-up for your fear, then you are not ready for this step. Likewise, the “enemies” you have acquired might not be ready to meet you openly and with civility. If you are being targeted with hatred from another group, even though it is horrible and painful, just hold on, refuse to retaliate with anger and hatred, and find compassion for them. Such attacks are rooted deeply in primitive fear and a lack of higher wisdom. Though it may not seem like it, those poor hateful suckers are probably feeling far worse that you right now. Blaming others for problems is a little like drinking a strong pilsner beer – it seems enjoyable enough at first and then starts to leave a bitter taste in your mouth; and if you indulge in it too much you will eventually become impaired and suffer a hideous hangover.

So you see it is possible to transcend fear of change and move through life with less drama and trauma, but it is very difficult. You are going to have to work on this process for years and years and maybe all the rest of your life. Yes, that’s the catch – you can never really finish adjusting to change.

But ultimately, when you are no longer ruled by fear, you will laugh a little when the next change comes along and you will be able to dance to the rhythm of change with only a few missteps here and there. And, when all is said and done, that is really what life is about—to live with such freedom from fear that you can dance anywhere to any sort of music.

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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.

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