There’s a lot of change going on in my life, both personally and professionally at the moment. I have recently left the job I had for the past six years in order to develop my career as a self-employed counsellor. Leaving the job and becoming self-employed has been my goal for some time now, yet when it came to actually making the leap (and it really felt like a leap of faith) I found myself to be very conflicted. There were lots of “what ifs?” going on for me, most of them around whether I could actually make a living and continue to provide for my family as a self-employed person. Even though this is something I have really worked towards and really wanted for a long time, there was a very strong internal pull to stay with the familiar and not to step outside my comfort zone.
In my personal life there is considerable change too as my eldest daughter has moved to Spain to work for a year and my second daughter officially becomes an adult in a few days. While the empty nest isn’t here yet it’s certainly visible on the horizon and that change in role brings with it feelings of nostalgia and sadness as well as excitement that my daughters are becoming independent young women and that we as parents have got them this far. Mixed feelings all round really.
The one thing we can guarantee is that nothing will stay the same forever and yet change can be an enormous challenge for many of us.We just don’t relish the idea of stepping outside our comfort zones. The thing about comfort zones, though, is that over time they have the habit of not being so comfortable anymore. When we start feeling those niggles of discomfort we become restless and agitated, looking for change but not sure what form that change might take. Some people thrive on change, they love a new adventure and they seize each and every opportunity that comes their way. Others are more like me; cautious, prone to anxiety in a new situation or just lacking confidence in their own ability to see a new challenge through. For people like this sticking with the status quo won’t be a life or death decision but it can lead to frustration and stagnation both personally and professionally.
For some people, however, the need for change might be much more acute; in fact it may well be life or death. These people are stuck in abusive and/or violent relationships and feel like there is no way out for them. The need for change in such a relationship is evident to everyone, but for the person within the relationship they can feel paralyzed with fear and indecision and feel totally powerless to make a change. The process of changing can seem more daunting than staying in the familiar situation that they’re used to and which they have (somewhat) survived thus far. People looking in can see the need for change…”leave him/her, get out, make a life for yourself…” they advise. But, here’s the thing…it’s not that simple when you’re the one stuck in the situation. What is it that stops these people making changes? Surely nothing could be worse than where they find themselves now? Maybe if I use the analogy of changing a baby’s nappy it might help to explain the resistance. I’m sure some of you have changed a dirty nappy at some time and know what I’m talking about. You get that whiff off the baby and you know it’s time for a change. You know that if the baby stays in the dirty nappy her bum will get sore and if she’s left long enough she will get nappy rash which is very unpleasant. So, you set about changing her. But she has different ideas, she doesn’t want her bum exposed to the cold, right now she’s quite happy sitting in s**t, it’s warm, it’s familiar….what’s the need for change? So, she resists. She wriggles, she cries she doesn’t make it easy for you, but you know it’s in her best interests so you persevere and coax her and calm her and get the job done. When it’s done she’s delighted and back to her sunny self (until the next time!)
We adults sometimes have a similar reaction to situations where it’s obvious that change is needed. We resist, we run away from opportunities to change, we fear the cold winds getting to us. Why do we react like that? Because, just like the baby, we may be in the s**t but it’s familiar s**t, we’re used to it. Sometimes the awful familiar can seem preferable to the frightening unknown. The effort to get to the far side of the situation can seem too much and we stay stuck. But, if we stay in a toxic relationship (be it violent or not) it can have the same effect on our emotional well-being as leaving a baby in a dirty nappy has on its physical well-being. In time our psyche becomes damaged and we become very unwell as a result. The challenge is to take that leap and trust that by changing something more things will change. One thing is certain; if you change nothing, nothing will change. On the other hand, small changes can be the catalyst for much bigger changes down the road. Sometimes, you might need outside help to make the changes necessary. You might need to make some internal changes first in order to have the strength to make the external ones. Counselling, support groups, Woman’s Aid are all resources that can be accessed for help with getting out of dysfunctional relationships. Internet forums can also be a mine of information and support to help build up the strength and courage needed to turn your life around. The very first step is to admit that this isn’t right and that you deserve better and deserve to be happy.
Change is inevitable in life__nothing stays the same, everything passes eventually. Change is challenging, even frightening but who knows how high you can soar or what you can be if you embrace change and let go of the familiar.