The Difficulty With Change

The Difficulty With Change

There are two types of change: change that happens to us; and, change that we want to bring about. Both are difficult.

Change that happens to us

With the first, we are compelled to adapt to change. Often the change is unwanted. Sometimes it is major and our ability to adapt is not there. We experience stress as a result.

As well, often, there are things we would like to change in ourselves. We make New Year resolutions. We read the self help books. Or, attend personal growth workshops. And we vow, that we will implement what we have learned. And we often do….for a while. But we can’t keep it up. Before too long we’re back where we started – often with a renewed sense of failure. Stress often accompanies these experiences as well. For our desire to change is usually motivated by a dislike of the way things currently are. We feel hopeless and helpless. Should we simply resign ourselves to these outcomes? Should we give up?

The ¬†key to resolving this dilemma is to understand why change is so difficult. To do this, consider this: who we are and how we react to the world around us is the result of a lifetime of experiences. We don’t consciously choose how we behave or react. It simply happens as a result of the way we’ve been conditioned. It’s the result of the way we’ve been parented, how and what we were taught, what happened in the schoolyard, what our religion taught us, the barrage of messages we’re bombarded with day in and day out by our culture. It’s all of that. If you’re fifty years old, who and what you are is the result of fifty years of experience. It has little or nothing to do with what you think – what resides in the neo-cortex or thinking part of your brain. It’s about who you are – the programming that’s been laid down deep in your subconscious mind.

Mindfulness is a practice which works on the deep levels of the mind to slowly undo the lifetime of programming that’s taken place there.

 

Efforts to Change or Improve Ourselves

“I have only three enemies. My favorite enemy, the one most easily influenced for the better, is the British Empire. My second enemy, the Indian people, are far more difficult. But my most formidable opponent is a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi. With him I seem to have very, very little influence.”

- Mohandas K. Gandhi

With few exceptions, most of us have experienced the same difficulty that Gandhi spoke of. We’ve all made New Year’s resolutions – and have not been able to keep most or all of them. We’ve all read books that advised us of things that we could do to become better functioning people. For the most part, we haven’t been able to implement and sustain the advice. The reason is that we are in a rut, and we can’t get out of it. We don’t know how to get out of it. Who we are and how we relate to the world (including our stress reaction to stressors) is the result of all the years – however old we are – of conditioning. It includes the way we were parented, schooled, bullied, shamed, disappointed, delighted, etc., etc. It isn’t the result very much at all, to do with the way we think we choose.

A story to illustrate this point:

In a psychology course I was taking towards an MBA degree, a typical challenging business situation was described. I remember thinking that I could relate to the situation as I had been in very similar situations myself in the past. The author then went on to describe a personality type – a character. Again, I recall thinking about how similar that character was to me. The author then went on to predict what that character, in the previously described situation, would think, say, and do. I just about threw the textbook into the air as the author had just described exactly what I had thought, said and did. It made me wonder about just how much free choice or free will we have. I wondered to what degree we are pre-programmed.

Another story:

A number of years ago, I worked for a government crown corporation. I reported to the CEO. A major area of interest of mine, and one that I was quite involved in, was staff development and training. My boss, the CEO, held strong beliefs

Is it hopeless then? Do we just accept