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Don’t fear change, change your fear

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Brooke Hender

Summer 2018

Don’t Fear Change, Change your Fear


Change. It happens. We deal with change all the time.

Sometimes it’s the small things – the delay to the bus or train, the unavailability of an item you’ve ordered, the unexpected bill, the sudden rain shower – the list is endless. At other times, it can feel more significant – a promotion at work, the death of someone we care about, buying a house, meeting somebody new, an unexpected opportunity abroad.

Often people associate unwanted change as being a negative in their lives. It happens ‘to’ them and therefore it’s out of their control and they just have to deal with the consequences. Even if the change is positive, they can still see it as a negative because it presents them with challenges that they may not feel ready to deal with. And then there are the changes that we actively want to make. We want to make a leap – perhaps to try a new career path, to move to another town or even another country, or to study something new.

Change is a constant in our lives, and yet so many of us have a difficult relationship to it. As with so many things, our relationship to change will depend on our past experience with it. You may see it as a natural and positive aspect of life that is to be welcomed. Or you may resist it, worrying about what it may bring and whether it’s going to be yet another difficulty to overcome.

There are many reasons why we each react the way we do to change. It will also depend on what the nature of that change is – whether it’s familiar or unexpected, within our experience or something entirely new.

For most people, there is one thing that underpins their reaction to change. And that is fear. Not fear of change necessarily, but a fear of what they imagine that change might mean for them. Fear of the unknown, fear of the possibilities. Some of the comments I have come across when discussing change with my clients are:

“What happens if it all goes wrong?” “What if I’m rubbish at the job?”
“What if I can’t do it?”
“It’s not sensible to leave my current job.”
“What happens if I don’t like it?”
“I’m not ready to make the change.”

I’m sure you can think of many reasons why you haven’t done something, something that you’ve really wanted to do. I know I can. Underneath every one of these comments is a fear. A fear of failure, a fear of success, a fear of the unknown, a fear of what others might think of us – the list goes on. So where does that fear come from?

What’s the story?

We tell ourselves a story about who we are. Some of that story was given to us by our parents, or perhaps by teachers, by other kids, by society. A story we absorbed as our own, a story we chose to believe it.

I know for many years I believed I was rubbish at maths because I was told that by a particular teacher (and the truth is I’m not rubbish at maths). Those early stories determine how we react to changes, maybe in a general sense or perhaps only in specific circumstances, depending on the story you’re telling yourself. I believe that I’m really good with technology so I’m always looking for and seeing proof of that belief in everything I do. Which of course confirms to me that I’m really good with technology. If I don’t understand something I research it, try it and then learn how to do it. I have no fear of this because “I’m good with technology”.

However, for many years I told myself a slightly different story when it came to relationships, and I wasn’t even aware that I was telling myself a story. It was only when I realised that I was coming to the end of yet another relationship that I became aware that something wasn’t right. And that what I was telling myself wasn’t helping. I was scared to commit – always finding something ‘wrong’ in the relationship, no matter how good it was.

But asking for help meant change. And I was very comfortable with my current story even if the result wasn’t what I was looking for. When a friend suggested that perhaps speaking to somebody would be helpful, I asked myself many questions based on fear; “What if I’m broken? What if I discover something awful about myself? What if I can’t change?” All of these were my fear of the unknown. I was more comfortable limiting myself through my current belief than confronting the fear of the unknown possibilities. I was afraid of changing my story because it was unknown to me.

And that’s the thing about a limiting belief – it’s a belief that limits you. On an unconscious level it restricts you, finds ways to stop you making the changes you want to make – presenting you with unhelpful choices or placing you in a tug of war with the part of you that desperately wants to make the change. We are rarely aware of the first incidents that led to the limiting belief forming and how they became part of our story.

The First Step is the Hardest

The hardest part was taking the first step, which in my case was to speak to a Cognitive Hypnotherapist. I discovered that there were reasons why I was telling myself this story. As I learned through my training, ‘all behaviour has a positive intention’, and mine was working very hard to protect me based on one mistaken belief.

Once I’d taken that first step, I was able to look at what had caused my unconscious to protect me in that way. And then reframe it so that it no longer impacted my beliefs today. Not only did I understand why – but I was now telling myself a different, more helpful story. Along with that, I lost my fears about what might happen. I now know that I’m not broken (and never was). I didn’t discover something awful about myself and I’m still enjoying discovering what’s next. I now have a different story about relationships, one that has also impacted positively on other areas of my life. Because that’s the nature of positive change – it has unintended positive consequences in other areas of your life.

I’ve been able to discover other stories and other fears and to discover what is underneath them and deal with them. And the journey continues… I still face changes both big and small, and I still learn from them.

We all face change and I invite you to take a moment to think about how you deal with change in the different areas of your life. Are there stories that you’re telling yourself that could be more helpful? And what would your life be like if you were able to let go of the limiting beliefs those stories have given you?

You may find that taking that first step ends up being a giant leap. And who knows where that takes you.