Editor’s Note: This is part two in Martin’s change series, part one ran Feb. 27
Change is a scary six-letter word. What feelings are evoked when you consider making changes? How scary is the concept of change? The change monster says, “Change is impossible. You can’t do it.” The change monster feeds off your fear of the unknown, tries to devour self-confidence, and gobbles your goals and dreams. Change monster causes stress and distress. Tune into your emotions as they have a way of sabotaging change efforts. Be aware of the emotion roller-coaster ride of feelings about change, especially fear and anxiety. First deal with your feelings about making changes then address the actual changes. Emotions can become unpleasant and lead to frustrated, anger, resentment, and guilt. Listen to what your emotions are saying to you. Accept, acknowledge, and admit your feelings. Reflect on how you act, interact, and react in situations that involve change. Describe your biggest fear about making changes. What is the worst thing that can happen if you make positive changes? What do you see yourself doing if the worst happens? What clues tell you that you are making changes in how you process emotions? How will I know when my fear of changing is decreasing? Your mission is to tame the change monster by facing your fears.
Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book, “Emotional Intelligence-EQ,” lists five abilities that comprise our EQ: knowing our emotion, managing our emotions, motivating ourselves to achieve our goals, and recognizing emotions in others. Tame your change monster by utilizing EQ. Some people may desire to make changes in how they manage emotions in relationships. Some may desire to change compulsive eating habits or harmful behaviors. Maybe you are looking for a healthier lifestyle or a spiritual awakening. Perhaps your job is intolerable and you want a new career or credit card debt is looming and you want to change spending habits. Dealing with the change feeling is necessary before tackling issues and problems.
How do family members respond to our changes? Sometimes our partners feel insecure when we make changes. Sometimes our family members become upset because they are confused and afraid of change. At other times, family and friends will applaud our changes. Nagging, pleading, and threatening another person to make a change seldom work. A forced change can cause resentment, anger, and hurt feelings.
Inspect your motivations for change. Motivations are reasons for doing things. Humans are often motivated to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. Some change is voluntarily and some change is forced. What is motivating your yearning to make changes? Is a partner, spouse, friend, or boss giving an ultimatum to you? Are you being forced to make changes by the court system? Is your current circumstance too painful not to change? Are you motivated by internal or external factors or both? Rate your honesty level about wanting to make changes. While change may represent flexibility to some, to others it may indicate instability and insecurity. Do you like or dislike change?
Examine your expectations of instant gratification. Sometimes we want what we want and we want it now. Chill and be still. Some changes take more effort than others. We live in a fast-food world and some changes simply need to marinate. Explore your expectations about change. Are they too high, too low, illogical or realistic? Change is never-ending.
As Caroline Schroeder comments, “Some people change when they see the light, others when they feel the heat.”
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Ohio