Have you ever had one of those moments in life when everything seems to be going smoothly and, then, bam life happens and tosses everything you thought you knew into a whirlwind? My assumption is the answer is, yes. As the old saying goes, “The only thing that is constant is life is change.” Depending upon the person and the situation, change can range from exhilarating to debilitating; or even a bit of both. Change can come in many forms ranging from small changes, such as making healthier food choices or starting a new bedtime routine, to large changes, such as the birth of a child or a move to a new city. No matter how small or big the change, the most important piece of the puzzle is how someone reacts to change. I often say to clients that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react; however, many people struggle with the idea that a change in perspective can make such a large difference.
While change is a part of life, many people resist change whether they realize it or not. For some, the resistance is tied to the expectations of others, the fear of the unknown, or losing one’s sense of self. Many artists have commented that it is during their darkest moments that they have been the most creative, so it understandable that people are afraid of “who” they would be without depression or anxiety. The common theme underlying resisting change revolves around fear…fear of being judged, fear of letting others down, fear of what lies on the other side of change. If one allows the fear to take hold, then change can feel distressful, scary, and even impossible. Life changes typically associated with positive change, such as the birth of a child, can end up being perceived as negative if fear wins out.
So, how do you cope when life takes the curvy path versus the straight road? The answer lies within as with any change, whether positive or negative, the way one chooses to handle change makes all the difference. When change occurs there is the choice to accept, embrace, and grow or the choice to resist, avoid, and remain feeling stuck. By choosing to meet change head on and finding the courage to look within, the fear of change diminishes and one’s self-confidence grows. Is it hard to accept, process, and/or evolve when life changes? Absolutely, but the choice to embrace change and take away new meaning is well worth the effort because after going through the fire a phoenix arises with a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.
There is a scene in the movie, “Parenthood,” with Steve Martin that embodies the courage and depth people experience when they choose to meet change head on and experience all this life has to offer. The scene involves a grown man complaining about his complicated life and his Grandmother’s response: “You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster…up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”
Mary Kathleen Hill, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist