Change always works out for the best doesn't it? (Managing your fear of change)
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
No, no, no, a thousand times no! When "change works out" it is usually because you have shifted
your mind set to deal with it. It is usually because you have faced whatever was holding you back from change and got through the pain and fear that was binding you. It is usually because you have worked hard to manage whatever the adversity you have been plunged into and come out stronger; and it is usually because if the change was wanted and sought-after you have grafted away making sure whatever you have altered is now a part of who you are.
"Change" doesn't work out - YOU do.
I know there may be some pedants reading this saying "Oh that's obvious - we ALL know that". But I really don't think we do! I think we are sometimes so used to our "turns of phrase" that we perceive them to be as simplistic as they sound.
"Change works out..." Who is this "change"? How can s/he help? Change is an act - it is not an act-or. Change may be initiated or responded to, and therefore the main focus when it comes to making change work - is you.
Try this: Change two things about yourself - right now!
Did you take something off as one of those things? People often do...moreso when you have to change more than two things - and this is the crux of our fear. We tend to associate "change" (in the "grander" sense of the word) with loss. However, (and perhaps your first change was something like rolling your sleeves up, or doing something with your hair), change as something that happens goes on all the time.
We change our underwear.
We change our basic household brands.
We change our phones.
Each may take a little more thought as the change becomes more significant to us, but the point I am illustrating is that we deal with change every day - and sometimes we seek it out.
The change that we fear is often change that affects our immediate relationships. It can be unexpected. It is also the change that is out of our control.
However, even then, while the effects of the last two cannot be removed, they can be tempered.
We will take the "unexpected" first. Unless it was a "freak occurence" or a hidden medical issue - and sadly such things do happen - when we say something was "unexpected" - it is not usually compeltely so. An unpleasant change may have happened sooner than we feared, but if we are mindful and aware of ourselves, our lives and our feelings - we can often "sense" something is amiss. What tends to happen is we often try to ignore or excuse those signs - hoping it will go away. All that happens is that period - which is probably not the most pleasant to live within gets extended, until the change happens anyway.
However, even if change is foisted upon us by someone else, if we choose to address the situation when we believe something is wrong, we are in a better position to take control of ourselves and navigate our way through.
For example, if redundancies are on the agenda in the workplace, while we may not want to take it, the act of considering it and having a vague outline of options should it happen makes the next steps much easier should it fall upon us. Alternatively it might even be the red flag we need to start thinking about how we want our future to go, and even if we would prefer to stay where we are - and we are not made redundant - we have at least checked in with ourselves to be sure we are still on the path we wanted.
As we move through life, we take on more and more responsibilities. Some are chosen, some come as by-products of our choices - but if we do not take time for ourselves to look at where we are, where we are going, and whether we are happy, any change feels like a huge upheaval and worse still we may not realise that it is exactly what could be helpful to us.
People sometimes begin to fear where this is going when I discuss taking a snapshot of where we are right now and whether we are happy - especially if there are something they are not happy with but don't want to lose them.
As I said at the start - change is not about loss. If those things are important to you, then little changes may make them pleasureable again. But by ignoring that they are not as we would like, we risk the only changing working being the upheaval that we feared.
At the very least, it is important to take stock of where we are now and then and whether this feels right to us. When we are aware of that, we can start looking at what needs a little more TLC - especially if we do not want to lose it. Then we need to do it. Then we can enjoy it and check in with ourselves again as we go along.
By taking a pro-active approach to change, we are better able to manage our fears, and sometimes even bring about smaller changes that make large ones unnecessary.
But YOU do that.
You are always stronger than you know.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt