Change is the best and worst thing about being human. Everything is so wonderfully unstable. We are constantly longing for change, for growth, for betterment. And yet, at the same time, we find a way to loathe it. We are scared of change. We are afraid of what it means for us. Why are we so terrified of something we long for so deeply?
When we desire change, what we really want is more control. We want to be able to make things work out the way we want them to work out. Yet, even that, scares us. We are afraid to get what we want.
The reason is clear. We are afraid of the unknown. It is the mystery of life that intrigues and terrifies us. Our discontent and lack of control are braided together tightly. We are afraid that change will make things worse. We can’t, after all, control everything.
And so, we end up sticking with the devil we know. The only thing that scares us more than change is the idea that change will make things worse. What if the change doesn’t work out? The familiar suddenly seems manageable when faced with the worst case scenario of something new.
Another reason we are afraid of change is that we are scared of what comes with it. The catch. The baggage. The responsibility we’ll have to take. What we really want is for our circumstances, mood, etc. to change without costing us anything. But there is something deep within us that knows this is not how things work.
We don’t want to change ourselves. We want all the reward with no risk, but change doesn’t happen that way. We end up staying the same because, once again, the unknown consequences of change frighten us into submission. Like a turtle retreating into its shell, we avoid the dangers that come from change.
Every action requires a response. It is a ripple that creates consequences. These quickly start to drift further and further from our control. And it is that reality that keeps us from the changes we ought to make. The consequences of our change, especially the idea we have to own those consequences, keeps us from pursuing transformation.
We are obsessed with safety. It is a form of control. And the first thing we need to do to make positive change is face the reality of today. Staring the current self in the face terrifies us. It makes us feel seen and known in the worst way.
We like ourself, at least to some degree. Even if it is a small glimmer that just likes our own misery. Fear keeps us shackled to the old things. We know we will miss them. Our addictions have given us some jolt of excitement – either adventure or safety – and letting go of them means losing what has been constant and familiar. Even if our constant is toxic, it will be mourned when missed. That is just the way we are. Change requires us to go through the mourning before stepping into a brighter tomorrow. And some of us can’t stand the idea of detoxing from our current lives.
The choice becomes painfully clear: which matters to us most – our fear of change or desire for it? In the end, we are the “X” factor. We are the ones who make the decision about whether we will grow or stay the same, whether we will face the consequences of change or be stayed by fear.