Fear of change

While there are some people out there who relish change and embrace new experiences, for many of us change instils a feeling of fear which can manifest in angry, destructive or self-limiting behaviours. 

Humans like security and certainty and we are generally creatures of habit. The idea of breaking our habits often leads to anxiety, which is why many of us don’t change until the discomfort of our situation becomes greater than our fear of change e.g. someone may only make a real and concerted effort to lose weight after a heart attack or similar .

Many of you reading this will have faced the situation of wanting a new job.  You may be unhappy in your current role, feeling undervalued and underpaid, and yet at the same time, something prevents you from looking for a new job.  This is often fear of the unknown.  In your current role, you may not be happy, but you know what you are unhappy about and you have become used to and prepared for that unhappiness.  Thinking about trying something new often brings with it that uncertainty which you can’t prepare for.  A well-known saying is: 

“The certainty of misery is preferable to the misery of uncertainty”. 

These feelings are very primal and instinctive.  For primitive man thousands of years ago, doing anything new or unknown could bring dangerous consequences, e.g. leaving the protection of the forest to hunt animals could leave you vulnerable to an animal attack yourself or eating an unknown berry could result in poisoning. 

This instinct is also reinforced through learnt behaviour.  As children, we are taught about the world around us and often allowed to feel safe in familiar surroundings but made to feel cautious and wary in unknown and unfamiliar situations, e.g. don’t talk to strangers, don’t leave my side, don’t go there, don’t do this, etc. 

So what can we do about it?  Consciously recognising the feelings is a fantastic start.  All too often, people feel an unpleasant feeling and react automatically to distance themselves from that feeling as quickly as possible.  Often this automatic reaction is unhealthy, limiting and reinforces the original belief that there is something to be worried about.  So instead, simply allow yourself to sit with the feeling.  Resist the temptation to get rid of it and just be interested in the discomfort and view it with curiosity.  Allow yourself to become aware of the feeling and understand the message it is trying to communicate.  This increased level of understanding and awareness will not make the feeling disappear, but will allow you to tolerate and control it, allowing you to make those changes you desire in your life.

Curiosity is not about what is right or wrong, it is about a greater understanding of yourself.  The more you allow yourself to be curious about your feelings and the thoughts and beliefs which accompany them, the greater control you will have over them.