Fear of Change and How to Manage It

Two wooden chairs on lake dockLast month a couple of my readers expressed an interest in my take on the fear of change and in guidelines for dealing with it. So that’s the topic for this month’s article.

I thought a lot about change and our reasons for fearing it. There’s a great deal of literature out there on the subject from diverse points of view, ranging from a spiritual perspective to a business perspective of wanting to help employees deal with changes to the status quo.

Since I’m by no means an expert in all of these different perspectives but have been through a few changes of my own in the course of my life, I’ll offer a personal point of view.

We Yoruba/Lucumi have it easy in some ways because we do divination. This allows us to be prepared to some extent for what’s around the bend. We also know that changes are mandated by Olodumare (our name for God) working through the Orisas (divinities) and Egun (the ancestors). Our spiritual/religious beliefs make changes a bit easier to bear because we believe there’s an ultimate divine power behind all changes in our lives. Sometimes it helps to know that changes in specific areas are coming.

Nevertheless, even with divine backup, it’s still hard to accept and embrace change, especially when it looks to us at the time like it’s a change for the worse. (We sometimes struggle with change that appears to be for the better as well.)

The phrase “…it looks to us at the time” is the key in my opinion to being able to manage change.

Think back over the course of your lives to changes that have occurred and try to remember your initial response to them. All of us have experienced some of the following changes: loss of jobs, change in careers, loss of loved ones, loss of money, loss of our living places, promotions, moving, graduation, having a child, increased financial security, and so on.

In fact, is there ever a time when things aren’t changing? The answer is no. We are always in transition.

As you remember all of those changes, recall your initial responses to them and then think about how that change actually turned out. For example, that job loss that was so humiliating at the time and represented a serious change in your financial status turned out to be just the push you needed to start that new career, go back to school, relocate, start your own business, or work fewer hours and have more enjoyment in your life. I personally have a number of experiences with this type of change.

Even positive changes can be difficult. The news is filled with people who won the lottery, only to experience all sorts of difficulties. Many end up with less than when they started, unable to manage the sudden influx of wealth and the hoards of people who try to separate them from it.

A period of change occurred for me when I was buying my house upstate. It was divined when I was initiated as a Yoruba/Lucumi priest that I should get away weekends, take time off, not overwork or over-schedule myself. After being in private psychotherapy practice only a short time, I did well enough to make this a reality (it was also at a time when they were practically begging people to take out mortgages). So I now had (and still have) this lovely little cottage in the woods on a mountain top. A positive change, correct?

Well, absolutely! And I am eternally grateful for it. However, with change comes responsibility and pressure. When business dips, which it inevitably does, I get anxious about the mortgage payments and other expenses. When the furnace breaks down and needs to be replaced, I fully feel the burden of what it means to own your own home and there’s no super to call to fix things. Has owning the property been a positive change in my life? Absolutely. Has it been without stress? No.

What I try to do when there are many changes in a short period of time and I begin to feel overwhelmed is to remember that life is about change and I can either resist it and make myself sick or accept it. I tell myself that I don’t fully understand what this change is really about in the long term. I call upon my protective spiritual powers to help me stay optimistic and to have the strength to do what is necessary to accept what they have put before me. I examine whether I am getting way ahead of myself and living in the future when I don’t really know what this change means yet (that happens very often).

Most of all, I tell myself there is no reason to fear. After all, I’m still here, even after all of the changes I’ve experienced in my life. I hope this helps.

Related articles:
Mindfulness and Not-Knowing
Pain is Inevitable; Suffering is Optional
Letting Go of Our Fear of Loss

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kalila Borghini, LCSW

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.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Millie Reese

    March 1st, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    I thrive on change- it’s the spice of life and certainly helps to keep thinhs interesting!

  • Hannah Stevens

    March 2nd, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    Author’s words: “In fact, is there ever a time when things aren’t changing? The answer is no. We are always in transition.” I love it!

  • Maura

    March 3rd, 2012 at 5:52 AM

    We have a fear of change because it goes outside of our comfort zone. We get too stagnant and afraid of the unknown. But why? It is because we are comfortable with what we are at a given point in time and think that we don’t want that to chage.

    But what if there is something better around the corner? You have to be willing to let lie take its course and when that involves change, just go with the flow and see where it can take you.

    You may end up pleasantly surprised when you allow that change to become a part of you. You might actually find that you like the concept of change after all.

  • Carson K

    March 4th, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    Interesting how we have all of these problems any time change comes our way. No matter whether we think that it is change for the better or not, it can still be daunting to think about. And even harder to become accustomed to living with especially when we have put up such an internal resistance to it.

  • kell

    March 5th, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    probably the bezt piece of advice that I could give is to take things one day at a time.\
    it’s hard, i know that, but the old saying goes that rome was not built in a day and your problems are not going to be solved in a day either.
    make a plan, and create small steps to adjust to the change

  • Kalila Borghini

    March 6th, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    Thanks for your responses readers. Glad you enjoyed the article. I agree with take things one day at a time but have a plan.

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