On Getting Stuck -- Why do we Fear Positive Change?
Re-posted from Michelle's Weebly blog
So many of the people I see in my practice get "stuck" at some point...stuck in a pattern, a habit, a coping mechanism that isn't helping them, in a routine, in an unhappy relationship, in a place, in a job they dislike, in a way of thinking, etc. In fact, everyone gets "stuck" in something at some point in life. It can be during a transitional phase or during a time when we are feeling emotionally low or more isolated than usual. It is digging out of the hole we created for ourselves and getting "unstuck" that is the challenge for people when this occurs. Why can it be so difficult to make new, positive changes stick when we are in a rut? One conflict is TIME. It takes time to allow for or to create change. In order to have the discipline, patience, and focus, as we start on a path towards positive change, it takes more time than we might be used to in this age of immediate gratification and lightening fast technology. We have to learn to slow down a bit and make the time we need to in a realistic way for the necessary changes to happen in our lives. We must not be discouraged if our progress is steady, but at more of a snail's pace than we'd hoped. One of the most challenging issues many face is that once positive changes begin, soon after, many individuals see how much progress they are making and how healthy, whole, strong, and even powerful they feel while making these sometimes difficult changes in their lives. For example, if we start to lose weight, exercise, and eat healthier foods, we can often start to feel much better in a relatively short period of time. However, if we haven't examined the underlying emotional, mental, physical, and/or spiritual/energetic causes of why we put the extra weight on in the first place, we may find that we come up against a wall and stop making progress or feeling motivated about being healthier in our habits and losing the pounds we had hoped to lose. Or, in some cases, we may even panic and begin to overeat compulsively in response to stress or fear that we feel as a result of the changes that are happening, thus sabotaging the wonderful progress we have made. Seeing how powerful we are as individuals and standing fully in our own light, for some reason, can be a very scary experience for many. That is enough for some people to step back and retreat into what is familiar to them, even if it is unhealthy and detrimental to them or those around them. Another issue I frequently observe is that many people don't feel truly worthy of positive and healthy changes in their lives. They hold grudges against themselves and judge themselves and think that they must continue to make themselves struggle and suffer as a sort of "penance" for the prior mistakes they have made in their lives, as if they are not deserving of happiness. The reality is EVERYONE deserves to be healthy and happy. EVERYONE is worthy of self-love and love from others. We must learn to accept ourselves, flaws and all, to stop judging ourselves and running negative "tapes" in our heads, and to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. This is the truest way to be healthier, happier, and more fulfilled in our lives permanently. Another thing that seems to sabotage a lot of people's progress is that they set their goals way too high all at once in the beginning and/or lose patience at the amount of progress they are making slowly over time with such aggressive goals. When, in reality, we have to understand that making small steps in progress toward our overall goal a little bit at a time (with whatever kind of change in our lives that we wish to adjust to and see through--emotional, mental, physical or spiritual) is usually much more healthy, lasting, and productive in the long run than rushing to make several sweeping changes all at once. It is also important to be "real" with ourselves and set goals we KNOW we will be committed to and will be able to attain, even if it means asking for additional help and support. We can't expect everything to go our way or to happen overnight. So, hoping for the best, while simultaneously being prepared for challenges that we may need to face and being patient and gentle with ourselves is a great way to approach any type of change. Some people are ashamed when they don't make the immediate progress that they hoped to achieve, and so they begin to lie or gloss over the truth, with themselves or others, which means they reach a dangerous place of living in denial. This form of escape can actually set you back further away from your intended goals, create more problems that you will need to deal with later anyway, and cause new, unhealthy habits you didn't ever expect to occur. Honesty with yourself and others is the best policy when approaching change. It may be difficult to be honest at first, as the truth can hurt or be scary. But, in the long run, honesty makes everything so much easier and simpler, especially when you are also willing to take responsibility for and own the negative or unhealthy thoughts and behaviors you created in your life. Stop playing the role of victim and look at what YOU have done to create and live in your own situation. Sure, other people may also be accountable on some level. But, if you have chosen to continue to hide from or escape the truth of what part you have played in your current situation, you have hurt yourself and may even be enabling the negative/unhealthy habits of those around you. Also, remember, you unfortunately can't change anyone else or force someone to change out of unhealthy thought patterns or behaviors against his or her will. Just like you, everyone else only makes healthy changes when fully ready to do so. We can't nag or control/manipulate anyone else into thinking or processing the way that we do or into treating himself/herself better. Just because you are making these transformations for the better in your own life, don't expect everyone else to do so. It is a bonus if your efforts and progress inspire someone else. But, we can't force change on anyone. So, we must accept and love others as they are, respecting their choices, while simultaneously honoring ourselves and our own needs. You may want to ask yourself some important questions both before you begin to make healthy changes in your life and also to check in with yourself frequently along the way, as you begin to make progress on your chosen path. The honest answers you give can be telling and helpful. Here are a few to get you thinking and working things out mentally/emotionally before you take action: -Why do I want to change? Am I doing this for myself, others or both? -What might be the long term benefits of these changes? How about the short term benefits? -Will this make my life healthier and happier? -Who can I turn to when I need support while I am making these changes? -If I get scared/uncomfortable or if old feelings/habits sneak up when positive changes start to happen in my life, what will I use as a strategy to cope with these feelings/actions in a healthier way than I used to? (In other words, come up with a healthy habit here to replace an old, unhealthy habit.) -What strengths do I already have that I can rely on while I am making these changes? What are the things I already like or love about myself? -If I start to feel unworthy or judgemental of myself during this process, what can I do or tell myself to help stop it before it sabotages my progress towards happiness? -Do I have any role models/mentors that I can aspire to and learn from who have made these types of changes in their own lives? What can those people teach me? -What is a reasonable and realistic time frame for me to reach my first small goal in these changes? (Again, be honest with yourself here.) -How can I reward myself (not with food or alcohol/drugs/tobacco, etc....but with something healthy that encourages the good habit to continue) when I reach my first small goal? -How much time can I realistically spend on these changes every day? -What are some of the things, like thought patterns, behaviors, people, situations, etc., that I need to let go of in order to help these positive changes happen? The above are just a few questions to get you thinking as you begin or as you check in periodically with yourself on your progress and future goals. You may want to write your answers down or to keep a journal on your progress. Remember, don't be too hard on yourself. Change usually takes time. Just to change/replace one ingrained, unhealthy habit into a new, healthy habit, it can take over a month of effort and repeating the new replacement habit several times before it sticks with you. Don't get discouraged...and if you do, make sure you created a back-up plan for yourself, so you don't slide back into those old habits/patterns on a bad day. The more positive support and encouragement you have with your goal(s), the more successful you will be. It can also help to speak with a trusted counselor or member of the clergy, or even to find a support group to help you through the transition and fear that often accompanies change. A support system can help you to succeed and reach your goals, even when there are bumps in the road along the way. Believing in yourself and in the fact that you CAN CHANGE your life to become happier and healthier is half of the battle. It begins with your thoughts and beliefs. You will only be as strong and healthy and happy and empowered as you ALLOW yourself to be in this life. So, don't be your own worst enemy by thinking badly of yourself and bullying yourself. You should be your own best friend, especially if you are going through any kind of transitional or transformational time in your life. You do not have to live in fear. You do not have to fear change. Making positive changes can be difficult, but reaps many rewards. You will feel better about yourself on many levels and will have a happier, much better quality relationship with yourself and others, too. Healthy change is really our friend if we can learn to embrace it and stop fearing it. If we can learn to make a leap of faith and let go of what no longer serves us, WONDERFUL, AMAZING, FULFILLING, JOYFUL, EMPOWERING things will happen. For support with making changes in your life, please feel free to explore my other blogs and their links (listed to the right)...or the links, workshops or free guided meditations pages on our other website: www.harmonywayhealing.com. We also have a brand new page on this website, called Forums. There is one about our blogs and one about support. If you want to have a conversation or seek out support or advice, feel free to add your thoughts to one or more forums. You can also feel free to contact us to find out where you can get the necessary inspiration and support to make the healthy, positive changes you deserve in your life.