Say the word change and you'll get all kinds of reactions. Some people are afraid of change, some merely avoid it for convenience' sake. Some people lionize change as if it is somehow noble in itself. We've all heard the "Life is like underwear- change is good!" being blurted out into our lowest moments by well meaning people. Those are the people that bother me the most.
I mean, change isn't necessarily bad- sometimes it is good, sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes it just happens and we must get on with life anyway. But I don't trust those rah rah change cheerleaders that seem overly embracing of every surprise that life throws us. New is not necessarily always improved.
I've noticed two things: 1) usually, the cheerleaders are rah rah-ing someone else's unexpected life alterations and 2) they usually seem to harbor some kind of notion that loving change makes them somehow cooler than the rest of us. To me, this somewhat robotic acceptance seems rather Stepford Wife-ish in the creepiest way.
We all know someone who has had the same hairstyle since high school, people who always take the same route to work or who eat the same lunch every day. These people bother me too, but not as much. Some things don't change...and just don't have to.
I guess I'm kind of a middle of the road change embracer. I'm not afraid to mix things up a little, but I'm also not going to immediately stand there and shout something like, "Oh, my husband left me?! What a great opportunity to reinvent myself!! I'm soooo blessed!! Finally, a chance for real change!!!!!"
Of course, the difference is control. I can choose a different hair length or even try something new at the buffet, but sometimes changes have come that I didn't welcome. At all. My husband leaving was quite an unexpected change in the planned trajectory of my life, and I was quite against it at the time. Through honoring all my emotions, loving self care and making the decision to go another way, I was able to adapt, accept and thrive in the new reality. Eventually.
Divorce, illness, an unwelcome political circumstances- anytime you are in a situation where something did or is about to change in a way that you aren't totally on board with will not feel good. This is where the change cheerleaders will tell you to, "Go with the flow," and, "Get out of your comfort zone."
Inside we're silently screaming that a 26 year marriage isn't merely a comfort zone, "Hello?! It's my life we're talking about here, not about changing my shampoo."
Even changes you choose can be scary. Last month, I made a choice to quit my job. I was previously self employed pre-divorce, although back then finding clients for my business wasn't as crucial as it is about to become.
But I had been faced with an undeniable, overwhelming sense that I needed to make a change and live out my purpose. My lifestyle had become so stress filled and un-fun that I had to balance my comfort zone of getting a regular paycheck with the alternatives. So here I am doing it and facing some very real fears.
Through change, we can practice resilience, learn to see alternatives and adapt and grow by expanding our view and looking at things in a different way. Yes, there are great benefits to it, depending on your approach.
So how do you know if you are an insensitive change cheerleader?
Say you come on the scene and you find that your friend is suddenly undergoing a major life change that is very upsetting for them. Do you:
A- Go into fixer mode and start coming up with all the positive reasons why this change is really the best thing that will ever happen for your friend?
B- Realize that A is totally the wrong answer and tell your friend that change is hard, and that they have every reason to be scared or angry or whatever emotion they are feeling. (By the way... let your friend name the emotion.) You could add that the day will come when they will get through feeling whatever emotion it is and that you are there for them whenever they feel they need you.
If you know deep down you would really take the A approach... I'm going to throw something out here. Yes, you want to see your friend pain free- we all would. Just a thought though: besides seeing your pal sad, is their pain actually making you uncomfortable? Is the raw display of emotion something that you are so uncomfortable with that you go into fixer mode partly as a self preserving attempt to change the subject/climate/mood/energy?
It is common for people to want to avoid so called "negative" emotions at all costs. Perhaps we didn't learn skills for dealing with this these types of upheavals effectively, so it is just easier if we get on with it some other way. You might think of it as wearing a mask- posing as someone who loves change for change's sake in some cases merely to get past "bad" feelings like sadness, anger or fear. We're not healthy if we feel bad , right? Feel happy and balanced most of the time is the goal, yes, but not at the cost of stuffing emotions.
Here is a hint- that is the real point of this post.
Taking a deeper, honest look at how you handle negative emotions is worth it. How you sit with them, how you allow yourself to respond to them, feel them and to be present in them is so important. Just because something has a negative label doesn't mean it is. Allow yourself the opportunity to explore sadness, fear, discomfort- without brushing it aside or trying to "snap out of it."
Just be present and feel. No judgment, no race to the exit. Embrace yourself- that is really 100% you in there- isn't it great?
Just like change. Sometimes.... Think of me as your acceptance of negative feelings cheerleader.