There’s a tiny fear about the unknown in there somewhere. Even the most adventurous people hesitate just a little when it comes to facing changes. There are changes that we – in our human experience – have no control over such as the circumstances we grow up in. Global events such as wars, natural disasters, or pandemics. These changes do happen whether we want them or not. We all know what that’s like.
Building resilience is your best bet in meeting those outside changes. Resilient people typically deal with challenges a lot better than unresourceful people. However, resilience is also great should you want to initiate an internal change. That’s what I’m talking mostly about here, personal changes. They could be the most challenging, because they come from within, and it’s easy not doing them in the first place or giving up easily.
Some of this anxiety about changing from within comes from bad experience. Something may have happened a long time ago, and it felt bad. People tend to push that sort of bad feeling down or ignore it as if it would vanish this way. That’s wishful thinking.
I hear it often. People say,
- “I don’t want to know about what happened in my past”
- “That’s a long time ago and not relevant anymore”
They prefer to ignore or actively push down those old memories. However, what if those very long-forgotten memories (complete with unresolved emotions) are preventing you from trusting yourself and others and from changing some aspect of yourself for the better?
It is likely that someone who doesn’t want to know about their old stuff, has developed little habits keeping those unresolved past events in check. These habits may have been somewhat protective in the beginning. Later though, they can take on a life of themselves and become very influential in many aspects of life.
Once fully developed, those little habits become full-blown behavioural patterns that are almost indistinguishable from someone’s true self. They can completely sabotage any change and are not only detrimental to building self-trust but also soul destroying.
To be fair, patterns like these are meant to keep you safe. That need for safety is inbuilt. From an evolutionary point of view, keeping safe is paramount. Being unsafe would have reduced our chances of survival during our evolutionary past. A lot of our biology is dedicated to get us out of harm’s way quickly. Think about adrenalin going up to give us the strength and stamina to either run away as quickly as possible or to fight for our lives.
Today we are not exposed to life threatening danger very often. This doesn’t mean that our body, our emotions, and our mind don’t react to perceived danger the same way as it used to react to real danger from animals, strangers, or the immediate environment. Our stress response could take any threat as important enough to roll out the entire range of responses.
This can include perceived threat from wanting to change. When the bodily response is putting you into stress mode, chances are you’ll forget what you wanted to do, or you freak out and quickly abandon any hint of a personal change.
For some people, this gets so ingrained that they’re fully convinced, they are not capable of change. They find all sorts of reasons why something can’t be done or wouldn’t work anyway. The best one of those thinking patterns is this one: “It may work for other people, but it won’t work for me”. How could you argue against that one? It’s a very clever way of the mind to keep you safe because it will prevent you from even trying.
When I was a lot younger, I had a whole arsenal of excuses, reasons and blame that I would use for justifying to myself not to change or even being the slightest bit positive about anything. I was cynical and quickly able to point exactly at the weak points of someone else before they could even think about attacking me or so I thought.
I used to be very suspicious. Didn’t trust anyone, not even myself. I had a history of let-downs. Yep, being let down by others is bad enough, but I let myself down on a regular basis. It wasn’t a good place to be. You probably heard people say that you’d be better your best friend, because you’ll have to live with yourself for the rest of your life.
I undeniably wasn’t my friend. Not only that, I couldn’t stand myself. And, I couldn’t run away from myself. Believe me, I tried. But I always caught up with myself. To make matters worse, I was a magnet for negative people. Anything that was said around me, I would interpret as negative, directed at me. I would make it mine and ruminate for weeks on a minor remark. Of course, I could not see what I was doing to myself. I was in it. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
Looking back, however, with the hindsight of personal development, I can tell you that I was traumatised and suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Back then, I didn’t have a clue what it was all about. I thought that it was normal to feel like I felt.
The big question is: How do you get out of this cycle of negativity and mistrust? From my perspective back then, I would have said, it’s impossible. But the beauty is, it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s possible.
Here’s what I learnt
- It’s possible to get out of negativity and mistrust
- Baby steps are mostly required and sometimes, changes happen in leaps and bounds
- It requires willingness to work on yourself
- You may not notice anything for a while, but when you look back, you can see the changes clearly
- Even though, you’ll work on yourself and on the relationship with yourself, you’re not isolated and relationships with others can either help, hinder or be neutral
For me, it was a beautiful and painful journey, sometimes simultaneously, but totally worth it. BTW, I didn’t do it all on my own. I had help, mentors, a therapist here and there, amazing relationships, enduring friendships, and family support. Not all at once, but consistent enough to keep me going on this journey of mine, trusting myself enough to keep changing.
If you feel inspired to trust yourself to change, and would like a hand, get advice, or just someone to listen to you, let me know.
GOOD NIGHT STORY ABOUT CHANGE
By Eva Tzschaschel
Once upon a time there was a little tree, that had just started to sprout up next to big Mumma tree.
The little tree was looking up to its mum and dreamt about becoming as big and strong like her.
During summer, the little tree had been busy with growing and it was so proud of its shiny green leaves.
But one day when the sun came up, the little tree noticed that one of its leaves looked different, it was more yellow than green. The little tree thought that this was odd, but didn’t worry too much about it.
That was a different story a few days later, when more leaves looked different, there were yellow, red, and even brown ones. The little tree was overly concerned about what was happening.
How could all those beautiful and shiny green leaves, turn into all these colours over night?
The little tree tried to fight the change and started to put all its energy into keeping the leaves green.
It got so exhausted from all the effort, and its leaves changed colours even faster. And then the leaves started to drop off.
The little tree was devastated. It thought there was something wrong with it. It lost all its joy and kept worrying about the future.
It wanted everything to stay the same. The little tree was so focused on itself that it didn’t realise that big Mumma tree’s leaves had also changed colours.
It couldn’t see the beauty of the autumn colours. It was constantly thinking of the glorious past and worrying about the uncertainty of the future. And it was not in tune with its own joy and happiness.
When all the leaves had fallen off and only the bare branches were visible, the little tree sank into deep depression.
After a very long time, it must have been months, the little tree heard children’s voices.
What were the kids talking about? And then the little tree realised that the children were talking about it.
They were admiring all the tiny, shiny green leaves that had started to appear all over its bare branches.
The little tree was so delighted and grateful for the new leaves.
And it promised that it would not resist change from now on.