"The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance." - Alan Watts
Why do I keep getting into abusive relationships? Why do I stay in a job that I hate? Why do I keep choosing addiction when I know that I really want connection? I need to change, but I am scared and frozen. Why is that?
Human fear of change is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon rooted in evolutionary, psychological, and sociocultural factors. Avoiding change helped our early ancestors survive. They were much more subject to rapidly and dangerously changing conditions and needed to seek security to survive. Our ancestral instincts are incompatible with the conditions under which we now live. The result is that modern people stay “frozen” unnecessarily, or even to our detriment, in habit loops, unable to move on to a more enjoyable existence. The following reasons for fear of change come from our harsh beginnings and the nature of human social relationships that developed to meet our original challenges:
It's important to note that the degree to which someone fears change can vary widely, and some people are more adaptable and open to change than others. Furthermore, the context and nature of the change play significant roles in shaping individual reactions. Regardless of your circumstances, embracing change is a practice that improves when we bring intentionality to it.
How do I increase my capacity to change?
“Fear is a mile wide, and an inch deep. We perceive it as a massive ocean. Then we step into it, we realize it's just a puddle.” - Leila Hormozi
Increasing one's capacity for change involves a combination of self-awareness, intentional effort, and a willingness to embrace new experiences. In many ways, embracing change is going against human instinct. You are not less of a person for feeling insecure while going through change. Rather, insecurity is to be expected because resistance to change is hardwired into us as a species. Here are some strategies to enhance your ability to navigate and embrace change while managing the inherent vulnerability and insecurity of the change process:
Process Freeze States:
Change is a gradual process, and it's okay to take it one step at a time. Consistent effort, self-compassion, and a willingness to learn can significantly increase your capacity for change.
Sometimes, a sense of urgency and the desire to rush change is a way to avoid change. This can stem from a fear of the change process. The urgency is trying to skip over the painful parts of change outlined in the first list above.
Change can feel like jumping off cliffs. You can develop your relationship with the change process by jumping off curbs instead of cliffs to start to get used to the feeling of “falling.” Facing your fears does not mean you must be frozen in terror or bowled over by overwhelming emotions.
If you look at change with an experimental attitude, you can take the pressure off of being perfect. Experimentation invites and expects mistakes. It values mistakes and failures as the fastest way to arrive at modes of living and functioning that work best for the given moment in time.