Why do some people seemingly embrace the process of transformation, while others get stuck, afraid to make a move, hoping in vain that the change they desire will come about magically and painlessly?
When those who’ve mastered the art of creative transformation feel an internal resistance, they’re able to acknowledge it, and work through it with trust. They’ve learned that openness and awareness are at the heart of the process and the mind’s role is to identify and let go of the emotions that stop them from following their heart’s directives.
If your resistance to change is stronger than your desire for a better situation, you must find your courage and delve deeply into your psyche. There, you can discover your resistance to change, break it apart, to the fuel of your passion. By exploring and dissolving these deeply rooted resistances you can start to release the grip of fear.
Here are five typical payoffs to change from my book, Wise Mind Open Mind. Which ones do you relate to?
Payoff 1: By resisting change, we can avoid the unknown. What’s familiar may not be terribly comfortable, but sometimes it seems that the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know. We fear that venturing into the unknown will cause us to discover painful secrets about the world and ourselves that have been hidden from us. We don’t think about the change that will allow us to feel more fulfilled.
Mindfulness can help us move forward through the dark jungle and thick fog of the unknown despite our fear, empowering us to take productive action. Mindfulness creates a container for the mind and its relentlessly anxious thoughts. Rather than whipping themselves up into a storm of fear that paralyzes us, we can observe them in a detached way and make a conscious decision to redirect the mind where we want it to go.
Payoff 2: We can avoid being judged as “strange.” Some parents can instill in a child the belief that being different, using the imagination, and taking risks is something to be valued, admired, and rewarded. When parents are frightened by their child’s differentness and too controlling they’ll try to stifle his creativity. The child, sensing their disapproval and fearing abandonment, shuts down their ability to express his creativity and then either tries to conform to his parents’ expectations or acts out.
As adults, we’ll cling to the desire to fit in with everyone else, at the expense of our own imagination. If we can recognize that our resistance is rooted in the false belief that being different will automatically result in loneliness and suffering, we can start to accept who we are and create relationships with people who aren’t unsettled by or envious of us.
Payoff 3: We can avoid failure. The fear of failure is intimately connected to our childhood fear that if we risk behaving in a new way, our parents will be angry and withdraw from and abandon us. When we fear failure, we tend to overestimate the risk we’re taking and imagine the worst possible scenario. What we picture is so dreadful that we convince ourselves that we shouldn’t even try to change.
Many artists have stories of crippling fear of failure that they could not completely erase but were able to overcome through being consciously aware of it and letting themselves experience it yet determinedly moving forward despite it. Overcoming the fear of failure requires us to consciously examine our long-forgotten experiences of feeling embarrassed or ashamed after taking a risk, and put them into perspective.
Payoff 4: We can avoid success. Strange though it may seem, a fear of success can cause as much resistance to change as a fear of failure can. While you may consciously long for a promotion or hope that your romantic relationship will result in marriage, unconsciously you may be afraid of what will happen if these changes occur. You may fear that your friends and loved ones will envy your success and withhold their love and approval or even abandon you because they can’t tolerate their feelings of jealousy and self-hatred.
If you can muster the courage to face your insecurities, you can heal yourself of the shame that prevents you from soaring to your destiny. Becoming aware of your insecurities also helps you see when others are acting out of envy, fear, or anger, and that makes it easier for you to consciously reject their distorted and hostile criticism.
Payoff 5: We can avoid feeling guilty. If we take a risk and make a change, we may feel guilty because we’re contradicting what others think we should or shouldn’t be doing with our lives. It takes great courage to stay true to the soul’s calling when it’s in conflict with what others believe we should want for ourselves.
To embrace the art of creative transformation, you must work through any feelings of guilt stemming from the belief that if you attempt to express your unique individuality and agenda, you’re being bad or selfish. Attending to yourself differs from being selfish. You’re only selfish if you take advantage of others for your own gain or knowingly cause them to suffer while giving no thought to whether you could prevent their being hurt.
When you give in to hidden fears it’s hard to believe that the discomfort and pain of accepting or making changes is worth experiencing. Your suffering may be so great that it feels as if it’ll never dissipate. However, after a loss, something new will come into your life, and it may well be something of equal or greater value.