Have you ever noticed how people react to the word change ? It is interesting to watch people’s physical reaction when they hear the word. Their eyes may glaze over, any smile that once was vanishes, and arms may fold in a defensive posture. Have you ever wondered why it strikes such a deep chord in most of us? Especially since change is something that we are all doing every minute of the day, whether we resist or welcome it. It affects us deeply because, for most people, the primary emotion associated with change is fear.
If you will, imagine a scene in which we are all walking alone on our own individual path; like individual rays shooting from a circular sun. Maybe you visualize your personal path taking you through the forest, by the ocean, or through the desert, but you see it as beautiful and feel a certain sense of safety. You realize this path is the only thing in this world that you can honestly say is YOURS! For all of us, while we are strolling along our path, placing one foot in front of the other, we are becoming richer, better rounded from taking in the sights, sounds, and smells, along our way. These are our experiences that no one else can perceive the way we do because, remember, they are on their own path complete with their own unique experiences. At times, we may feel an underlying sense of anxiety because we are not sure of what lies ahead but when we know we are on the right path there is also a sense of confidence so we continue forward. This would all be easy if we just kept strolling along, but life does not work that way. Think about it, what happens to us when we encounter a hill and in our struggle to get up it take a step or two backwards; or when we get to a fallen log and stumble as we attempt to climb over it? Over and over I have seen people become consumed with fear that they won’t make it over the log or up the hill. Or they fear that others, on their own path, may see them struggling, and think that they are weak. So people quit; they shut down. It is as though they become turtles sticking their heads back in their shells, and all the coaxing in the world will not draw them back out. They stop because they are scared of what lies ahead and assume that the experiences will be too hard or painful for them to face.
It is when we begin to appreciate the inherent value of these obstacles and see that their purpose is to make us stronger, then the resistance fades, the fear fades, and we take on a sense of I can do it. It is through this spirit of I can do anything, even though it may not be comfortable for us and may not be done perfectly, which keeps us going forward. We may even realize that without these bumps in the road that we would not evolve as fully or as quickly. How could we? Dealing with the rough terrain is what instills the balance to our leisurely stroll. We all venture off the path and we all take steps backwards. All of us, no matter how advanced we may be, make mistakes and slide into a place of fear. The difference is how long we choose to hide and if we are willing to get back up, again and again, to face the challenges of our lessons.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC