As a therapist, one of things I am constantly hearing from my clients, are their struggles with dealing with change. It’s very interesting to me, how we interpret the world around us, and even more so, CHANGE. Recently, during my meditation practice, I saw an image of a plant growing, kind of like the videos when they capture a plant and record it and then speed the film up to show the growth process. Something about the image of the plant growing struck me…. If a plant stops growing, it is dead. If we stop growing, so are we… So why do we resist change so strongly? And, even more importantly, how can we begin to embrace the uncertainty with wisdom, love, and trust?
To be clear, there are many different types of Change that we deal with. The changes that we initiate, desire, and feel control over, are not the things that cause us to feel scared, vulnerable and uncertain. The type of change that most of us struggle with, is what we don’t have control over. With the recent changing of the powers that be, i.e., having a new President, it has really stirred up a lot of emotions for people, mostly fear. Of course we see anger, rage, sadness and hurt as well, but I think the most common emotion we feel when there is change happening, especially when we feel and perceive things as being out of our control, the strongest emotion is FEAR. Maybe the answer to coping with change, actually lies in how do we deal with our fears.
So, let’s talk about how to effectively deal with our fears. I am going to share with you what I help my clients do, when facing change and working through their fears. Keep in mind, that how we deal with change, will directly affect our physical, mental and emotional bodies. Think of fear as energy. We want it to move through us and not get stuck! Here we go..
Awareness – Pay attention to what you are feeling and experiencing. We become more powerful when we have awareness about what is happening. Stop and ask yourself some of the following questions: What am I feeling right now? Where do I feel it in my body? When have I felt this before? Many times, when things start changing, people get reactive and disconnect from themselves. Stay present to YOU! By being aware of what you are feeling, where in your body you are having sensation, and noticing other times you have felt this way, we begin the process of transforming the fear into insight and awareness. With more awareness, we can move into the role of the observer/witness and begin to see what is happening with greater clarity. Sometimes I will say to my client’s, “Let’s take it up 10,000 feet.” With the idea being that when we can step out of the reactive mind, we gain a sense of more stability and calmness.
Talk about it – We need to be able to talk about what is happening. Give the fear a voice. For example, “Right now, I am aware that I feel fear about___________.” This acknowledgement allows us to be clear about what we are afraid of or uncertain about, in a way that is healthy and mindful. When you begin your sentence with right now, you are making it clear to your subconscious mind, that in this very moment, you feel fear. Be careful though – we do not want to create a story around our fear! We are simply just acknowledging the current presence of an emotion. This is not our natural state. Don’t get caught up in speaking about your fears in such a way as to escalate them. We want to recognize what we are experiencing and then continue to move through the process.
Scan your body – Begin with sitting in a chair or laying down. Get into a position where your breath is full and unrestricted. Start at the top of your head and move all the way down to your toes. What you want to tune into is, where in your body do you feel sensation/pain/tightness? Scan your front, back and side bodies. Make a note of where you feel the fear in your body. Our bodies are incredible indicators of what is happening in our minds and when we learn to listen to our bodies and attune to what is happening, we now have another indicator of how to listen and go within! Bam! How great is that? There are many books available to help people begin to learn about what happens when trauma and fear get stored in our body. Once you have identified what is happening in your body, begin to visualize beautiful golden light being directed to that area, send your breath and attention to that area of your body, and most importantly, send LOVE. This is a process that you can practice over and over. The more you do it, the greater the results!
Lean in – Who likes to be uncomfortable? No one! That is why we resist the feelings of discomfort associated with change. What if, when we got uncomfortable, instead of trying to run away from it, we leaned in and listened to the wisdom that is always available to us. Think of it this way, when we are comfortable, where is the desire to change? It’s not there… It is only when we are uncomfortable, that there is the opportunity and invitation to grow, change and transform! Our lives are dynamic and constantly changing. We know this, and yet we cling to what is familiar. This really doesn’t serve us, and actually makes coping with change harder. What we resist, persists. Let’s change our thinking around this idea of being comfortable. If we are uncomfortable – good! That means we are growing. I cannot tell you how many times I have been at a yoga class, and I will hear the teacher say, “Lean in…notice what is happening. If your legs are shaking, good, that means they are getting stronger!” It’s true, leaning into the change means we are growing and getting stronger too.
Find meaning – Viktor Frankl, was a Jewish Psychiatrist that was captured by the Nazi’s and survived the Holocaust. During his time in the concentration camps, he developed Logotherapy. Logos, is the greek word for Wisdom. What he began to notice is that within every human being, there is an inherent desire to create meaning in one’s life. He found that life has meaning under all circumstances, event the most miserable ones. We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the position we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering. To that end, what is the experience you are facing, offering you for your life? What is the wisdom and lesson for you to learn? I have found that searching for meaning, wisdom and the lessons, helps to transform uncertainty and fear to valuable experiences, greater compassion and expansiveness in our minds and hearts.
Go clean your bathroom! – ok, so this may seem kind of weird, but it really works. When change happens in our life, not only do people get fearful and reactionary, but they also get stuck – emotionally, physically and mentally. Go do something with that energy, especially something that will make you feel a sense of control and accomplishment. One time, when I was talking with my Uncle about something I was struggling with (a change that happened in my life), he told me to go scrub my bathroom. I thought, are you serious? What kind of support is that?!?! Well, let me tell you, it was great support! I found that when I was cleaning my bathroom (yes, I really did take his advice), I got lost in the process. I was listening to music and got really into thoroughly cleaning every inch of my bathroom. When I was done, I felt better. Here’s how it works, I was moving my body (movement), I was breathing (meditation), and being productive (accomplishment). All of those, pulled me out of my head, where I was perseverating about the situation, and got me into a state of ACTION. In that space, I was able to think more clearly and access more of my minds ability to process through the situation. I wasn’t stuck in the quicksand of fear. You don’t have to go clean your bathroom, but find a project that needs your attention, tending to your garden, cleaning out your closet, organizing your books, whatever. When you do it, do it with intention and be present! You will be amazed at how quickly your mind will shift.
The name of the game, is How Quickly Can You Change Your Thoughts – more and more research continues to come to light about the power of our minds. How quickly we can shift our thoughts, determines, to a large extent, how we feel about what is happening and directly affects our emotional state. I continue to challenge myself and my clients to changing their thoughts and language. We can make situations worse or better, simply with the power of our mind and how we talk about it. Most recently, I experienced this at a yoga class. I joined my local health club many years ago, because the group of teachers that taught there, were truly amazing! It didn’t matter who’s class I attended, all of the teachers were very talented and gifted. Over the past couple of years, things have really changed. Most of the teachers I studied with are gone, and while there are still a couple of great teachers, most of them are not of the caliber of what it once was (change). During a recent class, with a new teacher, I found myself getting angry, frustrated, sad and disappointed. I came home and didn’t like the feeling I had. Thankfully, I had more clients to see that day, so my attention was not fixated on the experience. When I was ending my day, I sat with what I was feeling. I was able to acknowledge that things had changed, and that what it once was, was no longer. As I went through my week, practicing what I have shared here, I had some insight. I realized that continuing my membership, no longer served me. It was time to move on. I could accept that the golden days of that experience, the great teachers, wonderful friendships and a strong sense of community had changed. I accepted that and was able to let go. I used the power of my mind to transform my thinking, which opened space for me to think of alternatives to getting my needs met. In the past, I probably would have just been pissed off and felt stuck. When we think, how can I transform my current situation/mind/experience, we begin to move energy and change our biology. I felt so much more peaceful and content in my body/mind/spirit.
Get Support – if you are struggling and cannot find your way out, seek the help of a great therapist. Hypnotherapy has been profoundly effective for helping the mind to shift into greater states of awareness, freedom, and insight. There is no need to continue to suffer, when we have so many incredible tools and resources that make such an impact. I say this, not only as a therapist, but also as a client. My therapist has helped me to work through so much and most importantly, to not fear change. Sure, I can still feel it in my body and my mind can get lost, but very quickly, I will practice awareness, talking about it, leaning in, being productive, and searching for the meaning and lesson.
Favorite Quotes For Change:
Life is 10% what happens to you, 90% what you make of it.
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it and join the dance. Alan W. Watts
If you don’t like something, change it. If you cant change it, change your attitude. Dr. Maya Angelou
Life is about trusting your feelings, taking chances, finding happiness, learning from the past, and realizing everything changes.
You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust the sails to reach your destination.