“Change is the only constant in life”, says the ancient wisdom.
Everything keeps changing all the time, as the Universe and everything within it is constantly evolving. It is as impossible to catch the moment of happiness and savor it for the rainy days, as it is impossible that the painful ones would last forever. And through all these changes, people are forced to grow. Sometimes happily, but most of the times through adversity. Often, there are the painful circumstances in our lives that make us start contemplating personal changes.
How do we become who we are?
Your personality is something you have been building, consciously or sub-consciously, from day one. Everything you ever experienced, your thoughts, your dreams, your traumas and joys, you kept adding to the huge mental construction you call yourself. It was built from bottom up, and so your earliest memories from the times when you had little or no words to form concepts, and very limited capabilities to understand the world around you, have become the foundations of your “house”. Within the structure, there is a huge library of memories, often unconscious, that automatically ascribes meaning to everything you encounter.
How do we experience things?
As you now see a dog, for example, you are probably not aware that the memories of all your experiences with the dogs in your life (including the ones you may have seen on TV or heard the story of) are automatically replayed in the depths of your mind, but – though not conscious - those memories influence what you now think and feel at the sight of the dog, and your reaction to it. If you had traumatic experiences with a dog in your childhood, you may now react with fear to a puppy, although you rationally know it to be harmless. We cannot see the dog, “such as it is”. In a sense, we can see nothing but our past. If your childhood was traumatic, you will most likely automatically assume that the present and the future are going to be traumatic, too.
Why is it so difficult to change?
To change and improve the foundations of your “house”, you often need to deconstruct some of the upper floors, and this leaves you for a time roofless and homeless. Vulnerable. Exposed to criticism. Fearful. Unsure of the results. It is not easy.
But it is necessary. People need to grow. Change is essential for your growth and development as a person. Without change, you are assured of staying just the way you are and doing things just the way you have always done them. Some people can pull it off, because they keep adapting through small changes which add up to bigger ones along the way. And there are others who kept betting on the wrong horse for too long and got into serious troubles like addiction or the end of a meaningful relationship. They want to change, but can't seem to figure out how to do it.
14 obstacles to change
Yes, it’s hard to change. It is not supposed to be easy, although you have a shelve full of self-help books that claim they’ve found the easy way to do it. Then you buy the book and are full of hope, celebrating in advance that now, finally, you’ve found the right solution, only to find out near the end of the book that implementing all these changes isn’t easy, looking for exceptions of the rules and small slips which turn into relapses. Your motivation keeps fading and you’re a step from failing again.
You may have tried it so many times, and failed along the way. What may have been the causes of your failures?
Lack of responsibility: It’s the others who need to change.
You need to admit to not being perfect: defense mechanisms (denial, projection).
You don’t believe change to be possible.
There is not enough time (money, other resources).
Your motivation fades as soon as things start getting a little bit better.
Perfectionism and procrastination.
Poorly coordinated plan (not taking into account realistic resources).
When the going gets tough … problems with endurance.
Lack of self-discipline.
Fear of criticism.
Lack of support.
Fear of change: better stay in your own cage, at least you will be fed.
Fear of failure: What if there’s nothing on the other side?
Fear of success: What if I will lose something important?
Sanja Rozman is a medical doctor, psychotherapist and author of 8 books on behavioral addictions.
Read more in her book Serenity: How to Recognize, Understand, and Recover from Behavioral Addictions
that is about to be published by Brandylane Publishers Inc., Belle Isle Books.