Many of us long for something to be better in our lives, like a happier marriage, having more money or being more fit. But why is it we remain stuck? We often expend lots of energy, including just thinking about it, yet little really changes. What may be going on is that the thing we want is also something we fear. Why would we fear something that sounds good, like having a happy marriage or financial wealth? We are afraid because we fear what is unknown. We don’t know what to expect, and even if we are unhappy with the way things are currently, at least we know how things will be. Like the old adage says, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” No matter how unhappy we may be, we’d rather stay with the status quo than take the chance on something different that may be better out of fear that it will, in fact, bring hardships yet unknown. We may be resisting the very change we say we want.
Many couples say they want a happy relationship, but on some level, they fear it as well. They don’t know what to expect from a marriage that is peaceful and may imagine an empty, one-dimensional relationship like we’ve seen portrayed on shows such as Ozzie and Harriet or the Cleavers. Couples fear that they will lose the capacity to feel a whole range of emotions, hurtful ones included, and that subsequently, they will lose a part of themselves. These couples imagine that they will sacrifice genuine emotion for peacefulness and will wind up acting fake or being falsely happy.
Most people want more money, but, often, they are afraid of what their lives would be like if they had it. Perhaps they have negative beliefs about ‘rich people’ and consider them self-centered, lacking morals, or wasteful. Because of these beliefs, they fear that if they have money they will take on these negative qualities as well. They are afraid that people will judge them negatively or people will be fake and use them. While they may like the idea of having money on the surface, on a deeper level, they fear that having money will change them for the worse.
One reason people fear change is that when thinking about change, many people focus on what they’ll be giving up instead of what they will gain. Overeaters may worry that they’ll lose the soothing effect food has on them when they’re upset or worry that they’ll lose the pleasure they get from the taste and texture of certain foods. Perhaps they’re afraid of the attention they may get when they look great.
When you’re ready to explore all aspects of what you want to change, here’s what you’ll need:
1. A good relationship with a spouse, friend or therapist – we change when we’re connected to a supportive person.
2. To talk about what you’re afraid might happen if you make the change.
3. To decide on a measurable step to take toward this change – actually doing something differently.
4. A specific and positive end goal.
5. To maintain your support system so you stay committed even when you aren’t feeling motivated.