The Pain of Change
“And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin
We probably each have had moments in our past when life came upon us and drastically altered our world as we knew it. We may have participated in the change, or it just happened that way, and we had to pick up the pieces and continue on. Either way, most of us can identify times when our hearts were broken with the pain of a life circumstance, and we wondered if we would ever be able to go on again.
Change in life is inevitable, yet we often push against change. We don’t necessarily like change; it can make us uncomfortable. And even more than that, it can be extremely painful to go through transformation moments which require significant change. But we do have a choice. We can look within ourselves and find the strength and the truth of what we need to do to address our part in our situation, or we can choose to look outside ourselves for our answers.
As a therapist I work with people every day who are looking for some sort of change in their lives. They may be looking for change due to feeling a restlessness, a dread, a sense of hopelessness, or want to find some relief to the rustling in their soul. Or it could be more assaultive than this. They may come out of desperation due to a life circumstance that leaves them no choice but to change. Whether it is from betrayal, divorce, financial hardship, or even the death of a loved one, the reasons are many when life “strong arms” us. Life’s happenings can leave us feeling paralyzed, alone and hopeless. And precisely because the pain is so unbearable, it may push us to do something different. It is here that we have to look at life and the crossroad. We can begin the journey by letting ourselves shatter open where we can rummage through the rubbish to find ourselves, or we can fearfully avoid it at all costs. If we choose to fearfully avoid ourselves, we ignore the fact that we can, indeed, heal the pain if we will go within and look at ourselves. We may choose, instead, to look at others as the reason for our pain and the reason for our situation. Blame and anger can be a normal part of change, initially. But if we don’t get out of the “blame game”, we lose the opportunity to move out of the pain and begin healing.
Life is not static. It is fluid, and in living our life, we have to learn to be fluid to what life brings to us on a daily basis. Rigidity will not stop life from happening. Rigidity may even cause us more pain. Being fluid gives us the flexibility to navigate life’s circumstances. If we can see life’s moments as opportunities to grow, we can set ourselves up to be fluid. And then we can focus on what this moment, this situation, is bringing in for us to learn and grow. It doesn’t mean we have to be thrilled that change came knocking at our door. We just have to know how to navigate in a way that allows us to grow through the situation.
Even though I work with this principal of change and fully believe that change can be a miracle bringing us more fully to our authentic self and our soul, I, too, find change difficult. I will face change because fundamentally, years ago, it was through one of life’s “strong-arms” on me that I began the journey of learning to know myself. I will not say I “found myself” at that time, because what I found was that I needed to begin spending time listening to myself and caring more for myself. I had to take responsibility for my unhappiness and make decisions to change my situation. I didn’t go to this place of understanding my needs easily. Nor did I easily learn how to take full responsibility for my happiness. It was one of the most painful times of walking the fire that I have ever encountered. It was also the most glorious revival. And even with this past experience, I still have times of addressing change in my life from a rigid stance. Hopefully, I am doing rigidity less and less with practice. But I often have to do the appropriate “self talk” that reminds me that we are in this world to grow and learn. It means that when we go through the depths of despair or experience a “dark night of the soul”, we have an opportunity to make changes within ourselves. It can be a burning away of all we know, all our thoughts, our patterns, our way of living. And when the fire is smoldering, and we are empty, then it is time to do the work of changing our ways in whatever way our soul may call.
Through my own experiences and through walking the journey with clients over the past 19 years, I have developed a philosophical perspective. These moments that call for change, these crises, these shattering experiences, these very dark nights of the soul, whatever they might be called, are spiritual opportunities. They are opportunities for us to dive deep – deep into our soul and look at our human self through our spiritual self. The good news is that as deep as we go in our pain is as high as we can go in our joy. Marianne Williamson says it best when she says, “The only way we’ll have whole lives is if we dwell within the wholeness of ourselves. And the wholeness of ourselves is found when we are whole with our spiritual Self.” (Williamson, 2004)
George Bernard Shaw, a literary guru, was asked towards the end of his life what person he would most like to have been. He responded that he would most like to have been the George Bernard Shaw he might have been and never became. (Williamson, 2004)
Williamson, M. (2004). The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life. New York: HarperCollins.
I stand at the door of Change,
I knock, she answers
I talk, she listens
She invites me in for a cup of tea
She tells me to sit by the fire and
touches my shoulder so gently as
she leaves to prepare tea
She returns and sits very close
Gazing into my eyes, she asks,
“When did you first know
you loved me?”
By Lois Weber
Tags: change is inevitable, Changing in her life, resisting change
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janie Pfeifer Watson
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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