Most of us fear change. It’s not a great recipe for effective living—since life is always changing. Why is it that change can feel so threatening? The basic problem, according to Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, is that somewhere we decided that we are not ok, and we need to find a way to fix that problem. Our minds then try to get the outside world into a fixed, permanent state that feels safe. When fear of change arises our tendency is to go into denial of that fear and start reacting to the world. This puts us into an unconscious, neurotic state of handling life’s challenges.
We tend to want to control the world and build an isolated bunker where we can feel safe: making money the main goal in life, staying stuck in a “safe” government job, fighting for a bad marriage, believing you are trapped, never leaving your hometown for fear of the unfamiliar, turning down a promotion because you will have to move, eating, drinking, or taking drugs to numb the fear of change.
Still, maybe you do believe you have life safely arranged but regardless of how hard you try, life keeps changing: your boyfriend wants to move in, the house burns down, the rich spouse gets sick and can’t work, the kids your life revolved around leave for college, someone dies, the business starts to fail, the business succeeds and consumes all your time, the government lays you off, you fall in love with your married coworker, you’re in an addiction from medicating fear, you get promoted and sent to China—life just won’t stand still and let you be.
Singer says that our job is not to make life a predictable, static thing that never changes so we can feel ok. He recommends that with mindfulness training we learn to watch the fear, allow it to move through our hearts, and release it. This may sound over simplistic but see if you can experiment with it. The next time you are in a state of fear around change start focusing on your breathing, allow the fear to come up, see if you can watch it without any attempt to move away. You may find that the fear gets bigger but then actually moves through and dissipates with this simple practice. After the fear is alleviated your thinking will also be clearer on how to make decisions to handle change most effectively. Remember, mindfulness needs to be practiced continually to be effective. When change is coming to you the neurotic mind is often looking for a way to take control and build a bunker against it. You are stronger than that. Take a breath, watch the change monster rising, stay with it, and see it transformed into a little kitten.
Below Michael Singer talks to Oprah about facing the change monster: