In Buddhism, it is said about change, “Remember the only constant advice is change”.
From the moment we are alive in the world, we must deal with the changes in our lives, external, internal, and between ourselves and others.
We tend to strive for wellbeing to achieve and hold on however fleeting and tenuous our grasp may be, and how we manage change will influence the quality of our psychological wellbeing over the course of our lives.
In my experience, a lot of folks I see in my practice are attempting to manage the change in their life, but often they get stuck, and they loop in circles that are difficult to get out of.
So, why does “change” cause so much emotional distress in our lives?
Change can be viewed as “the good, the bad, or the ugly”, and how we manage it is critical to our wellbeing and the degree to which we become immersed in suffering.
The good can be when we acquire new skills, experiences, and grow psychologically.
The bad can be when we are stuck re-looping, recycling, and developing a host of signs and symptoms of psychological distress.
The ugly can be when we deny the change, avoid the change, or move into distractions which only temporarily help us avoid the pain. This can result in us being like an unnourished fruit on a tree withering and declining.
So, what are the key elements of dealing and managing this big bad wolf called “change” in better ways?
First, we do not like change. It brings unpredictability and uncertainty; elements which our primitive brain has been taught to avoid. In pre-modern times these elements threatened our very survival.
Second, our frequent response to unpleasant thoughts and feelings is to run and hide, or to avoid altogether; thereby stopping these feelings and, in too many cases, having an experience where our feelings come out sideways; making identifying said feelings much more difficult to recognize or manage.
Third, we have been conditioned/programmed by aspects of modern western culture and the media to believe that joy and happiness can be harnessed via our 401ks, margin technology, or magical electives of chemicals often advertised on TV and the internet.
So, what are some effective methods in dealing with change and better managing that change in our lives?
First, we need to build awareness. Notice our reactions to the experience of unwelcome or unpleasant changes in our lives. Without awareness, you are ill-prepared to understand the patterns and cycles in which we become stuck.
To allow what we are experiencing to be there in our experience without judgment, learning to sit with, allow, and not push those experiences away. When we push the experience away or bury it, or dose it with a chemical, we lose the information on a sensory level that we need to be able to manage it.
Yes, it’s all that mindfulness adage about breathing and sitting with that which you want to avoid that you find unpleasant. But, if we don’t reduce our reactivity by allowing ourselves to sit, breathe, and turn down the volume of the internal chaos, we will not be able to use those cognitive problem-solving processes to understand and manage the changes in our lives.
We need to be patient and kind with ourselves in the process. Resisting the societal rush for instant answers, gratification and problem solving.
If you found this to be interesting or helpful, and you are curious about seeking further ways to explore how you can better address the changes in your life, feel free to contact me at my practice.
~ Dr. Ange