WHY WE RESIST CHANGE & HOW TO OVERCOME STAGNATION
I have written about resistance to change anecdotally many times elsewhere but it is such a core human problem that I feel there is hardly ever any line wasted on this topic. Our resistance to change stems from a deeply innate fear of the unknown and the idea of stepping out of our known little world, a.k.a, our comfort zone.
Why is it that we fear the unknown and how is it that this one fear brings about so much resistance to change in our lives? – whether it is changing jobs, moving house, growing up or ageing, or just about anything that requires some sense of stepping from what is familiar or known. The answer lies in the way our subconscious mind is set to handle and prioritise information and ultimately take decisive action.
Getting off the Grooves
What you really need to understand first and foremost is that the subconscious mind dislikes what is unfamiliar with a vengeance. The way it operates is through repetition and tightly sticking to known variables. In short, the subconscious mind will only allow more of the same even if that means reliving the same limiting or self-destructive patterns that in many cases have a long range effect on our lives. It doesn’t like to handle new information that breaks the pattern, because the subconscious minds thrives on patterning. You could see it as being effectively a pattern generating and management system. It sticks to what it knows and, alas, sometimes it sticks to the hell it knows despite the possibility of change that comes presenting itself in front of our very eyes.
This pattern generating and management system is inbuilt in all of us. It starts building up patterns from when we are toddlers and by the time we are about 7, we already have built a vast library of patterns that we will by default stick with for the rest of our lives (unless we don’t work on disrupting those patterns and installing new ones). In fact, from there on, throughout our adulthood, everything we feel, act, decide or choose, essentially gravitates around those patterns we build in childhood, just like a planet gravitates around a central sun.
To break a pattern and change, requires enough energy to metaphorically knock of the planet of its path and send it out at a tangent. Our resistance to change, therefore can be translated as the unwillingness of the subconscious minds to run off course and to assimilate something that is not in its primary programs. All of our fears, beliefs, tendencies to do one thing instead of another, and all the way up to our personality, is dictated by the gravity of this central sun we are not even conscious of.
Stop Trying to Hold it Together
The other quite important trait of the unconscious mind and how it really effects our possibility to change is that what it constantly tries to do is to keep things as they are, which in other words means, trying to keep things from falling apart or drifting off in some other direction. Imagine that it is doing this non-stop 24-7, constantly trying to do the impossible task of keeping things as they are when we are constantly bombarded by new experiences, events, disruptions and loss which are essentially part of life.
In fact this is the main reason why we feel fear or pain every time life ‘hits us’. In reality life never hits us, or happens to us, or worse, works against us. Life just is. We feel this struggle and pain points because we create conflict inside of us as we subconsciously try to adhere to our knowns whenever we encounter the unknowns. The pain is in the resistance, specifically, in fear that emerges out of going against our conditioned mind and body.
The Extended Body-Mind
The last point above opens the door to another interesting avenue of exploration. It’s the idea that our subconscious mind is not just some ethereal space or entity – it is literally embodied in us as it extends throughout our body. All of our experiences, blocks, beliefs and trauma are imprinted in our bodies as much as they are imprinted in our neurology and energetic matrices that surround our bodies. This is what some refer to as the holographic model of the body-mind. All of experiences are imprinted in these three facets of our embodiment. Hence our subconscious conditioning has a physical, energetic and neurological address. This is why so many healing modalities and therapies approach a given set of problems and issues from different angles – whether it is psychological therapy, energy medicine, yoga, shamanic methods, and so on. Seeing and approaching a problem from the different facets of our human hologram is effectively what holistic treatment is all about.
Resistance to change, therefore can be seen and approached from different angles. It can be seen as old beliefs and patterns playing out in every moment of our lives, or energetic blockages manifesting in physical stress and hormonal imbalance. I am not here to advocate one practice over another but a few anecdotes might shed some light on how to go about resistance to change and the general feeling of being stuck and not moving forward in life.
Resistance is effectively a reaction to inertia. Like anything in life, the amount of energy needed to overcome rest and start movement, is inertia. Many times we feel the amount of inertia is too big and overwhelming. Perhaps the problem seems too complex, our energies are low, we lack focus and determination, we lack clarity or are at a loss on how to step out of a situation. Although the degrees of inertia can be different, the basic underlying mechanisms are the same whether it is starting a healthy diet, write a book, start a new project or whatever it is that we need to get going.
The thing to keep in mind is that inertia is only the resistance to start the energy moving. It is the first and hardest step but once we overcome it, things start getting easier and smoother. Life is all about energy and information moving around. When energy stops moving, we experience stagnation. We feel lifeless and disconnected to the creative life force that we all have equal access to. So the first thing to be aware of is this inertia – the initial push we have to initiate in order to overcome rest and put things in motion. I like to imagine it as when you are in your comfort zone, sitting in that little corner at a party, just gotten familiar with people you started a chat with, and then all of a sudden someone drags you out to dance. You resist it as you’re subconscious mind goes “I’ve just settled to a comfortable level where social anxiety is not kicking in and my body has also found its position in this cozy little spot! Please don’t take me out there!” But then after a few minutes you are moving to the rhythm and you open up to new energies. The inertia has been overcome despite the initial pain.
The life coach and public speaker Mel Robbins swears on how the five second rule has changed her life and those of many thousands. Basically it simply goes that when you feel the inertia to do something, just stop thinking, count to five and just do it. Although it is not something in my own bag of tricks, I do understand this principle works on the idea to quickly overcome the inertia by bypassing the thinking mind (that will try to drag its feet and keep you there by weighing the problem) and just act. This is exactly like that person at the party who interrupted your chat while in your comfort zone and dragged you out to the dance floor. It’s all you need to get the train moving past the inertia and in motion. The rest is about building and keeping the momentum which we have less resistance to than starting it up.
Warning: Beware of your own Mind
Yet do also keep in mind that the mind is sneaky and clever. It will play out its patterns or distract you from overcoming them without you realising. Be warned that it is very good at it and its resources are inexhaustible. Your job is not to outsmart the mind but to be more vigilant and inquisitive about what’s driving you into or away from something. More importantly you need to be aware that you are resisting something in the first place before putting your attention on what it is you are really resisting and why. As always, awareness, not cleverness, is key. In Jungian Psychology and also in some Shamanic practices, there is what is called the shadow work – the lifelong process of uncovering the subconscious patterns and ‘knowing thyself’. And the most effective path in this shadow work is working with our resistances to change.
It’s All About Momentum
One of the secrets of life is perpetual motion. You need to keep the ball rolling because this is what life is. If the motion stops, life stops. Yogis refer to inertia as death because it resists and blocks the movement of the creative life force within us. It doesn’t matter how we overcome this inertia or which hack we use – whether count to five and act, go running, dance, breathe, sing, mentally affirm or visualise an outcome. The important thing is that we keep on moving and never stop enough to gather moss and lose the momentum.
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