Resisting Change

Can you remember the last time you went through life without much change? It’s been a long time for me. Sometimes, I miss the smooth sailing of stability and consistency. I’m definitely built for change, novelty. Rough sailing is where I thrive. Most people aren’t, understandably so. I have had my share of resistance to change. Here’s how I know I don’t want to change:

1. I procrastinate. I know change is coming. I know I need to implement a plan, a strategy to cope with change but I really just don’t want to. My body and my mind are refusing to accept the need for action. A lot of people do this. Many call this denial. I call it resistance. The problem with this is it creates more stress within you as you are battling between the need to act and the want to stay put.

The way to get out of the procrastinating is to make a decision and follow through with it.

2. I ignore consequences. I know procrastinating will have consequences. I know that staying put or digressing with catch up with me, but I simply ignore this fact. There is some magical thinking at play here. I don’t believe I will have any consequences regardless of previous experience that proves certain actions ALWAYS lead to certain consequences.

The way to get out of ignoring consequences is to assign accountability. If someone is keeping you accountable you’re less likely to continue with your behavior.

But what if nobody is keeping you accountable? This happens a lot with addictive behaviors. You know you need to change; you may have even experienced significant negative consequences from your addiction like relationship problems or performance issues at work or school. However, in the end you are the only one responsible and accountable for real change. People in your life may have tried to encourage you to change but after failed attempts, they have given up. If this hasn’t happened yet, it will.

So what do you do when you are the only one responsible to change but you don’t want to? This is one of the most difficult questions in addiction treatment.

What makes it even more complicated is the fact that you are conflicted. A part of you genuinely wants to change but then another part doesn’t. How long can you continue to be conflicted? It turns out, a long time. You’ll probably be miserable. But you’ll get by. What to do? Here are a few tips:

  1. When you feel conflicted don’t force yourself to make a move. Sit with your ambivalence and explore your fear of changing. Is it because you perceive it to be too hard? Is it scary and unknown? And if so, so what? What’s the worst that can happen? And has it not happen already? Can you think of another time in your life change turned out to be not so scary or hard? What helped you get through it?
  2. Befriend the part of you that wants to change. Listen to it. What does it want? Can you help him/her get it? How? List the positive aspects of change. What good will come out of it? How will you feel about yourself and your ability to accomplish things? How will you feel about yourself? Will it be worth it?
  3. Have a plan. Help yourself move into some sort of a preparation phase. Changing blind is harder and scarier than having a concrete plan. Think every step through. Break your goal down to small, achievable tasks and focus on one at a time. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself and give you an excuse to bail out on what you really want.
  4. Learn to keep yourself accountable. We all have a parent in us. Someone in our head who tells us what we should and shouldn’t do. Sometimes that parent stays in the way of progress but sometimes he knows what we need to do and can keep us on our toes.
  5. Remember, the PROCESS of change is more important than the end PRODUCT. You may decide that you don’t like the product at all but you will almost always find the process of change worth the trouble because you have learned some valuable lessons about yourself and others. And we never stop learning. What we learn through trying to change is invaluable. Pay attention to these life lessons even if the end result is not exactly what you hoped for. Also, focusing too much on the product tends to make us resentful (if disappointed) and/or provide only fleeting happiness (if we are content).

And most importantly, remind yourself that change gets easier only with practice.

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