The Trouble with Changing

My first blog post of the year (and the first in several years!) will be dedicated to change.

This is probably the time of year most associated with thoughts about change. Resolutions. Goals. Vision boards. Business plans. With a whole new year ahead of you, filled with so much promise, it can be very exciting! It can also be terrifying. The desire to change and the fear of change are two things that don’t seem to ever change.

In one of my favorite Harriet Lerner books, she summarizes a key point that, in years of trying to change and failing to change, had not really occurred to me:

“Change is an anxiety-arousing business because whenever you make a change, you can’t make ONLY one. There is no guarantee where it will stop.”

The idea of constant change is terrifying. As human beings, we rely on a certain level of sameness in our lives….it helps us to feel safe and secure, like things are predictable, and perhaps, under control. There is comfort in even the most uncomfortable sameness, because at least it’s familiar, at least we know what to expect. Consider, for a moment, a change you would like to make in this coming year. Then consider how many other changes that ONE change will necessitate. It’s enough to send you running back to the status quo! Deciding to make that one change and then realizing what it reveals about yourself, your relationships, and your life…the new decisions you might have to make as a result of these revelations. The anxiety intensifies.

Using myself as an example, this blog post is a change I’m intending to make this year. My intent (which now that it is about to be in writing makes it more real!) is to blog regularly. The meaning of that change is overwhelming! This is me being visible, open for critique and judgment, poised to fail publicly. On second thought…maybe I don’t want to do this!

Dr. Lerner discusses the concept of “countermoves” and “change back!” maneuvers that inevitably occur when one person in a system makes changes that threaten the status quo of that system. She talks about being accused of disloyalty, reckless disregard for others, or being misguided and wrong. She discusses threats of withdrawal from or dissolution of the relationship, as well as passive-aggressive behaviors (like sulking, picking fights, and gossiping about you). Countermoves are described as a measure of the level of anxiety in the system.

I am 100% sure that countermoves do not only occur in our interpersonal relationships. Indeed, we engage in these “change back!” behaviors all on our own! Often, we make a change and then we get anxious, fearful, overwhelmed. We start enumerating all the reasons why we should abandon this endeavor, using some of the same countermove tactics we might encounter with those closest to us.

But here’s the thing: there was a reason why we decided to make this change, and the hope for that outcome can be our beacon. I want to blog because I want to engage, I want to contribute, and I want to be of service. That outcome is worth fighting myself to achieve, formidable opponent that I am. Your outcome is worth the fight as well. Go slow. Give yourself time to sit with and work through your anxiety and fear about changing. Treat yourself with the kindness and compassion you deserve, that you would show your closest friend. Be flexible, open, and willing to engage whatever might come up as a result. And embrace yourself every step of the way.

That’s all advice to myself! But you can feel free to use it if it’s helpful to you too 😊

If you're interested in the book I was referencing click here:

Featured Posts