Why do some of us struggle so much with change? A particularly relevant question in the current coronavirus disease situation we’re all facing. What’s the reasoning behind this fear of change?
Keep reading for a few powerful techniques you can use to overcome this illusory fear . . .
Think back to the last time you found yourself on the brink of a major change. Maybe you felt a need for change. Maybe the change was out of your control—losing your job, for example—and you had to pick up the pieces afterward.
What about the fear of change?
How did you feel in the face of this change? Were you able to evaluate your options and move forward relatively confidently? Or did you feel paralyzed? Maybe you are still grappling with your fear of making this major life change, feeling like everything is on hold until you’re able to make the necessary choices. The problem is, you just can’t.
Could your fear of change derive from a Substitute Sense of Self?
Your feelings when standing at a crossroads reveal much about your Sense of Self (SoS). Virtually everyone experiences a certain amount of apprehension, anxiety, or fear when faced with change. But when you operate from a Substitute Sense of Self, you live with a more pervasive dread: that of not truly existing as a “real” person. You need things to be just “so” so you can gain a state of self-approval and accept yourself.
This is not a conscious fear, but one that developed unconsciously when you didn’t receive confirmation from your parent or caregiver as a person with needs and desires independent from their own.
Known as “Fear of Annihilation,” this apprehension is the root from which all Substitute Sense of Self oriented fears stems, including the fear of change.
But why do I have a fear of change?
Change implies a loss of routine. Whether the loss is short-term or long-term is immaterial. With a Substitute Sense of Self, even a temporary loss of routine means a loss of control.
Loss of control threatens your ability to fulfill your Ego-References, personal rules you have set up for yourself in an early phase of your life but which you still perceive as essential to your existence as a “real” person. Anything that diverts energy from your quest for validation feels like a threat to your very being.
Three questions to help you overcome your anxiety
Working toward a Restored Sense of Self will help you understand your fear of change at work as well as in your personal life. When you never developed a healthy Sense of Self, the effects are enduring and systemic. Your strategy for addressing the state of your Sense of Self will also have to unfold over the long-term. Begin by asking yourself the following questions to help understand the anxiety you feel about big changes.
What are you really afraid of? Are you truly afraid of moving or quitting your job? Or are you scared of something else? I, for example, have put off relocating for years. I tell other people that I’m afraid of not being able to get a job, of getting stuck with horrible roommates, and running out of money.
But what I’m terrified of is finding a job too easily, a less-than-desirable job that I settle for. A type of job that ends up defining me to others—family, friends, potential employers—who will then dismiss me as unworthy of their attention. Deep inside I fear they have a negative opinion about me already and all I want is change their minds about me. That’s what I am living for, so to speak. I would feel so much better. And moving will have done nothing to change the fact that I still feel like a failure.
The Indirect Motivation behind this fear remains largely unmapped for the moment, but I have managed to identify a fear deeper than that of changing cities.
What are my/your Ego-References? What rules have you set for yourself to be the person you “should” be for others? And how do these rules affect your ability to change your life in so many big or small ways?
Examples of Ego-References may include keeping a clean and organized home; working out every day no matter what; creating opportunities for your children or be lenient towards your partner; or making sure to always have a clear plan for next week, next month, or next year.
Please note that setting rules for your self isn’t a bad thing in itself, but if you do it for the wrong reason: to get approval, these rules are causing anxiety when you have to leave them behind. Allowing your subconscious mind to keep feeling that living up to these rules determines your right of existence is toxic for your self!
In her book, The Motivation Cure, Healthy Sense of Self founder Antoinetta Vogels explains:
In trying to fulfill your Ego-References, you’re like Don Quixote battling against windmills . . . striving for a fictitious, unattainable goal, but the problem is: you can’t see that for yourself.
A kind of willful blindness, Ego-References don’t help you move forward. They keep you stuck in the zone of self-sabotage.
What are my stress triggers?
When you feel stressed out about other issues in your life, big or small, working on major life changes feels even more daunting. Knowing your stress triggers will help you mitigate or avoid the daily situations that trigger your anxiety.
Practicing self-care may feel like a waste when you’re desperately attempting to achieve a “Feel-good-about-self” state. But it’s actually the latter that’s a waste of your time and energy. Should you not feel good about yourself as a default state? Aren’t you all you have?
Unconditional self-acceptance is crucial to smoothly go with wherever the flow of life will bring you and whatever it is you are facing.
You have a choice.
You do yourself a disservice to remain passive in the face of your fear. Changes will happen regardless, but they won’t be the changes you want to see. Instead of growing, you’ll fall into entropy. Instead of finding fulfillment, you’ll end up mired in frustration—without knowing its source: dependency on approval.
Your fear of change is a coded message from your conditioned self. Listen to your deepest Self, your Authentic Self! Discover which of the three Sense of Self-types is dominant in your own life: a Natural, Healthy SoS, a Substitute SoS or a Restored SoS?