To Change or Not to Change? Only You Can Answer

woman looking out of windowTransformation tends to be a scary proposition for most people. Even though we may want our circumstances to improve, we are afraid of what might be in store for us if we actually do change. That which is known often feels more comfortable, or at least less frightening, than that which is unknown. This may often be the case, even when we are unhappy in our intimate relationships or feeling trapped in a thankless and unrewarding job.

We often become stuck in a rut of our own making, because we are afraid of venturing out into unfamiliar territory. We may be caught up in our suffering and be leading “safe” and unfulfilling lives, but on some level, we are really choosing this apparent safety rather than taking a risk to become happier. We fool ourselves into thinking that we have some control over our lives and are able to maintain a semblance of security, although in truth we really have little control over much of what happens to us.

This becomes vividly clear to us anytime a family member dies, our marriage or relationship falls apart, we lose our livelihood, or we are struck by any type of natural disaster. At these times, we become acutely aware of our inner vulnerabilities and the lack of control that we really face in our lives. However, these moments can become opportunities for inner growth and transformation when we allow ourselves to open fully to the unknown path ahead of us, rather than focusing all of our awareness on that which we’ve lost.

So much of our time is wasted in building up the defensive walls that we surround ourselves with, rather than allowing ourselves to be touched and moved by the world around us. Our tender souls long for connection on a deep level, but are prevented from reaching out by the protective fortresses of our own making. To allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable involves running the risk of reconnecting with those inner wounds we guard against so dearly, and yet it also means closing ourselves off from others and the love that’s always present in our own hearts.

We therefore are in constant conflict between the yearning of our souls for the deep inner union we realize is our birthright and the fear that we may have to face the pain we have kept boarded up inside in order to do so. But at the end of the day, are we not meant to live a full life, to weave a rich tapestry made up of our creativity and emotions, to be of service, and to reconnect with the wholeness of all that we are?

In order to lead more fulfilling lives, we need to be willing to break down our defensive walls and put our trust in the unknown and the process of inner transformation. Nature can be a wonderful teacher on this journey. Observing how change is an ongoing and integral part of every moment can help us to realign with our own innate love and wisdom. Change is present everywhere we look—in the constant play of the clouds moving across the sky, in the decay of a rotting tree next to a new seedling breaking through the ground, in the changing of the seasons, and in the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into the butterfly.

Our own metamorphosis can occur once we become willing to examine the barricades that we’ve constructed and begin one by one to take down the bricks separating us from our own true nature. How do we start to deconstruct that which we’ve spent so much time and energy building up? The best way to do so is in the presence of a compassionate other. Our defenses were originally erected in the context of a relationship, so the best way to work on eliminating them is through the rapport established with another. The face of compassion and unconditional love can give us the courage to take down our barricades and to face the inner wounds that we’ve hidden deep inside. In some cases this might be done with a loved one, in others it might require working with an empathic psychotherapist. In either case, it is work that we need to do if we want to get back in touch with the love and joy that exists deep within our souls.

We are all faced with a choice—to settle for the apparent “safety” of an unfulfilling life, or to open to a life of fearless adventure and continual discovery. So let’s choose to allow our hearts to be broken wide open and to experience all of the emotions moving through us as waves in an ocean of love. Our lives are too precious and sacred to do anything else.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Leslie

    May 1st, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    The one important thing that you can’t forget to look at and study is whether the change that you are looking at is for you or for someone else.
    If you are doing this for you then I say to go for it! It could be fun, exciting and rewarding on so many levels that it would be a shame to not at least try and you might always look back on life with regrets if you don’t.
    On the flip side if this is something that you want to do to make someone else happy then I wouldn’t do it. What if things don’t turn out as you had planned and then there has been a whole lot of change and work that you have done for nothing in essence.
    If you are not fully invested in the chage and stand to gain something from it personally then I think that you are probably doing all of this for the wrong reasons.

  • tom

    May 2nd, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    If the fear of the unknown is what is holding you back, then it is time to take a headfirst dive into changing your life. Don’t let that fear hold you back- othersise you have no true idea of what you could be missing out on as a result! Fear is simply one more small obstacle to overcome in the game of life and on that road to real and heartfelt change. This could be the link that has been missing for you. Don’t let the opportunity to seize it get lost in the shuffle.

  • Seedling

    May 2nd, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am well on the way in this process right now with the presence of a “compassionate other” in therapy. This has made all the difference for me. From lonely living behind barricades that have taken a lifetime to build, toward having the courage to open in trust to Love and to Life (and the scary possibility of change)- it is certainly not a simple matter of an “aha” moment or two. It has been a slow but steady process for me. At least looking back I can see it that way. Your post is wonderfully timely for me today as I’m being confronted with how much forward movement I’m willing to embrace in my life right now – versus comfort and apparent “safety”. I know what makes me feel alive though – being on that growth edge does. Thank you for your post today that reminds me of this!

  • joy

    May 3rd, 2014 at 4:42 AM

    I am working on some personal changes in my own life right now and while uncomfortable at times, I am also at the place where I know that I have to make some true life changes starting right now or that otherwise I might never have the ability or the tenacity to the degree that I need to make that real change happen.

    We are always torn in life between what feels good right in this moment and the things that we know that we need to do for ourselves for tomorrow. I am convinced that if I don’t do these things today then I might not be here for another tomorrow. Quite the sobering thought. So here I am, scared to death of what all this means, and how hard it will be, but determined to do it and actually see some real and positive change in my life for once.

  • Jeanne

    May 3rd, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    How does one introduce this concept in couples counseling? I am open to going for it and gaining joy in my heart again and I want my partner to explore this instead of thinking we are fine when I think we are settling.

  • Wendy Salazar

    Wendy Salazar

    May 4th, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    Hi Jeanne,
    Change is a very individual process. Within the context of a relationship, both individuals need to be willing to work towards transformation if you want to undertake this journey together. While you can always choose to work on your own inner transformation, It is never possible to get someone else to change if they are not ready and willing to do so. You therefore have a choice of either opening yourself up to your own inner metamorphosis (possibly within the context of a therapeutic setting) or working together with your partner towards change in couples counseling, if your partner is open to this concept. In either case, I wish you the best in your inner journey towards creating more joy in your life and heart.

  • RorY

    May 5th, 2014 at 3:42 AM

    In the midst of loss and feeling alone it has to be pretty hard to be at a place where you can then see the opportunity for growing into a better and stronger person.

    I understand that this would be the ideal, to take that pain that you are feeling and change that into something good, but for most of us we will get so bogged down in the loss that we have expereinced and it could be a long time before we can look at that clearly enough and see the chances for change and growth that are in front of us.

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