Most humans seek comfort and routine over change. So anything outside the cozy comfort zone we create for ourselves is viewed as a threat by our brain. Our amygdala, that ancient part of the brain that determines our response to danger, will light up and tell us we need to fight (our perceived threat) or flee from it, or even make us freeze in place (stay stuck). Understanding the cycle of change can help us break the habit of seeking comfort over fearing change.
Understanding this cycle as part of the therapy journey can also help you recognize when your fear of change threshold is being challenged.
1. Discontent You grow increasingly unhappy and discontent with an area of your life, but you tolerate, ignore, repress, or otherwise deal with the circumstance because it is comfortable and familiar, and you fear change. This often when people seek out therapy.
2. Breaking Point Eventually your level of discontent builds high enough that you cannot take it anymore. You reach a “breaking point,” either through exhaustion or due to a catalytic event that triggers the break. 3. Decision You decide you’re ready to change and declare that you will no longer tolerate the undesirable situation. You take the first step toward change, giving you a short-lived sense of hope. 4. Fear Usually, shortly (or immediately) after your feelings of empowerment, you encounter your fear. You become uncomfortable and anxious about the idea of changing. You doubt your decision. Both options look bleak. You feel helpless and empty. 5. Amnesia The fear of change grows strong enough that it makes the original situation look much better than you originally thought. You perceive the original situation as less anxiety-producing than the change. You’re used to it; it’s comfortable; it’s familiar. Plus, it has become part of your identity, so you resist letting it go. You temporarily forget why you wanted to change it so badly. This can be when people decide therapy is too hard and what's the point and terminate or ghost.
6. Backtracking Most people choose to go back to or stick with the item they wished to change. You essentially talk yourself out of changing. This cycle can happen numerous times. And this is why most people try therapy more than once in their life. It's all good. How do we break the cycle? There are two ways: 1. Extreme Pain You have a breaking point that is severe enough to push through the change cycle. For many people, unfortunately, it takes an extreme circumstance to push them to evolve, such as major financial loss, job loss, loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, a severe accident, or a nervous breakdown. You see, your Higher Self knows what you truly want and will lead you to it. If you resist changing long enough, something will happen in your life that will put you in a position where you have NO CHOICE but to change. 2. Self-Honesty You have the humbling experience of realizing that there’s a part of you that doesn’t really want to change. You are comfortable with your habits, with what you know. You have a lot of fear that holds you back. You have many self-limiting beliefs. You receive some sort of benefit from staying where you are. You are unhappy because you want to be unhappy. You are addicted to the situation. You believe your pain is you; it’s your story. You can see your resistance to letting it go. Only after reaching this level of self-honesty can you truly CHOOSE to change. Ask yourself some of these questions and dig deep into your honesty. Can you see how this change cycle has impacted your life? How? Are you ready for it to stop? Have you experienced change amnesia before? If so, when? What will happen if you continue NOT to change? Are you ready to take responsibility for your life and create the life you dream of having? Are you at the point where you will accept nothing less than what you truly want? What are the underlying reasons you’ve been allowing yourself to keep avoiding change? • You don’t want to change. • You don’t know what you want. (Try imagining what you would want if time, money, and people did not limit you.) • Your dream isn’t big enough. (What would you do ANYTHING to attain?) • You’re letting your fear be bigger than you. (Are you really willing to settle?) • You are attached to your problem. (What would you talk about without it? Who would you be?) • You’re benefiting from your problem. (What are you holding onto? How does it benefit you to NOT change?) Now think about what the benefits of the change would be. These are great questions to journal over and over again. Yes, change is hard. And sometimes, not changing is even harder. Choose your hard. And as Glennon Doyle says: "we can do hard things." Having a therapist who can help you become aware of your fear of change both in the therapeutic process and in areas of your life can be incredibly helpful. Reach out for a consult.