We are Always Changing. Growth Demands It
Life is full of paradoxes; they are everywhere and nowhere all at once. They can be found where we look for them, and yet vanish before our eyes. From a young age, many of us envision what our lives will look like as we get older. We envision ourselves graduating from certain schools, seeking particular employment opportunities and careers, meeting and dating the perfect person/people, with many of us envisioning ourselves “settling down,” perhaps raising a family (children or fur-babies), going on adventures, and enjoying our lives as much as possible.
In fact, this leads to a phenomenon called “fantasy bonding,” which I have written about in another blog post. However, more immediately, all of our hopes, dreams, wants, needs, and desires are constantly in flux, and constantly changing. The irony, or the paradox, is that as we get older, human beings crave stability. For example, many of us will stay in relationships that we know are not completely fulfilling, or stay in jobs that we dislike or even downright hate, because we at least know they are stable. We can predict the boss that we dislike, or we can predict certain behavioural or personality characteristics from our partners that we dislike, and as long as we can predict it, then our environment is still stable. After all, don’t we say the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t?
Yet as much as we may crave stability, and the comforts that it brings (usually in the form of eliminating ambiguity—or the unknown and the fear that accompanies it), stability can also bring boredom, detachment, unresolved issues, and perhaps the worst for all of us, stagnation. Stagnation in an environment can lead to learned helplessness, burnout, chronic fatigue, depression, and feelings of unhappiness, as it typically negatively affects our overall mood states. As we start to get down on ourselves, we also start to lack the confidence required to make significant changes in our lives, and we also may start to become afraid of “upsetting the apple cart” or causing waves, which means that as we change, people around us are forced to change.
Growth demands change!!! You cannot have growth and stagnation together. Yet change is often stressful, taxing, and demanding, which are directly correlated to the amount of change that we are going through. For example, if I want to start a new job, I must first decide that I am worth a new job. Then I must evaluate the amount of stress that this will place on my overall ecosystem and environment. The longer the period of time that I have had to reach stasis, the more stress will be placed on my system, especially considering the amount of change that I’m about to embark on. The greater the amount of stress, the greater the amount of discomfort I will experience, and the more discomfort people around me are likely to experience as well.
For example, when a person decides to stop gambling, it is not just they who are affected, but their entire ecosystem. This person must not only say goodbye to gambling, but the friends that they have made there, the feelings of comfort that they have cultivated from sitting in that favourite “Lucky Seat,” as well as the dopamine hits that inevitably come every time the individual wins. This person must say goodbye to those friends, spend more time at home, and embark upon new adventures to determine new ways of spending their time and money. Although this may be an enticing endeavor to some, it can be a very anxiety-promoting endeavor to others.
As we said on the farm, you can have something: (1) done right, (2) done fast, or (3) done cheap—pick two.
Well, in counselling, I tell my clients, there are only 3 changes we can make: (1) ourselves, (2) others (i.e., asking them to change), and (3) environment—pick two. As we change, we will automatically require others to change around us, and if they cannot adapt to our new changes then we will inevitably have to change our environment. This can always incur large amounts of grief, stress, and letting go. Luckily, we can work on it together.
Come heal, grow and create together
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