Scared of the Unknown or Resistant to Change? Build Awareness of the Anxiety Within Avoidance.
It's okay if you are resistant to change at first. Socrates famously said that the secret to change isn't to fight the old, but put energy into building the new.
The point is that we don't always have to start from scratch or become a totally new person to utilize the life changing potential available in self-development.
Remember, Awareness Before Getting Started is Already a Win.
The study of change psychologically, behaviourally, or emotionally, has been an intrinsic component of virtually any self-actualizing or development since Ancient Greek Philosophers. To no surprise, it is continuing with contemporary psychological research.
So what tools or techniques do you need to cultivate a more satisfying relationship with change or the unknown?
The good news? Whatever technique you choose, can provide utility.
While some self-help writers, or self-improvement influencers will assure you there is only one way to help yourself become more motivated, successful, confident, or resilient to the unknown and change, that isn't true.
There are several well researched methods to choose from that are effective. However, there are many more additional spiritual or intuitive practices less explained by academic research, but still promote incredibly viable techniques. Let's jump into some options.
To begin, start with what you feel authentically reflects your interests or strengths when it comes to strategies.
For example, you feel like a cognitively clear, supportive, and logically organized plan of behaviours sounds best? Then do that, you don't have to start with the deep reflective exploratory emotional work, or meta-physical questions about your identity immediately, although you'll likely get there.
But, you cant avoid the anxiety, uncertainty, fear, or suffering with whatever choice you make.
Starting with your strengths is great, but it is not a free pass to avoid or resist doing the consistent and intentional work to address your emotional state and issues. Which I would add, if you are noticing a particularly strong avoidance of something, to spend some time in that discomfort and explore it before deciding it isn't the right fit or it doesn't have value. Because often times the things that challenge us or spike our anxiety actually have something really important to offer.
What Techniques Work Best for Anxiety or Avoidance?
There is going to be incredible debate on what evidence based technique or theory will be best for addressing anxiety around the unknown and avoidance with the fear of change, but I wanted to address this question of what is best because often that is part of the origin of people's fear around change.
What I mean is that think about the last big purchase, vacation, social media or YouTube video you watched, or even restaurant choice you made. How did you come to your conclusion? Did you simply trust your intuition or your own interpretation? Did a rating system, view count, or evaluation of some kind come into play? I almost guarantee it did. Even think about the speed, was it a choice you were instantly gratified by, or did you choose to wait?
Depending on the issue, reflex, instinct, thought, behaviour, or belief, there can be many resources that help.
There is no undisputed best, and if you think you need it to face uncertainty or change, challenge yourself to find acceptance and resiliency in not knowing if your method is the best.
When I'm answering the question of what technique works best, what I'm illustrating is that many people default to needing the best method, or believe that without the best method they won't find success. This is in fact, already a component of the fear of change and of the unknown at play, and you haven't even started yet.
Simplifying the avoidance and anxiety in the fear of change often leads to, I need the best or I will fail, I will lose, I will experience pain. You can already see that herein lies the perfectionism attached to the cognitive distortion, All or Nothing Thinking.
Remember this, because many psychotherapeutic behavioural theories focus on building your awareness of narratives, rules, beliefs, thoughts, or behaviours that limit you. This cognitive distortion is an example of an extreme thought that polarizes and intensifies our behaviours and choices. All or nothing thinking often misleads us and triggers the fight, flight, or freeze response of our nervous systems.
Acceptance of Some Suffering is Necessary. Fear or Uncertainty During Change is Part of the Growth Process.
This assertion is based on the principle on achieving what you value. Maybe at this time you do not value change, achieving a certain goal, or implementing a new consistent behaviour.
But when you do, if you cannot accept there will be resistance, uncertainty, pain, suffering, and failure, then you are already drastically hindering your ability to succeed.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a premier theory that offers continual support during the change process. It provides tools for motivation and committed behaviours, while teaching you emotional resiliency skills for processing inevitable pain or suffering on the journey.
Intentional and committed behaviour change that is clearly aligned with life goals, values, and needs is simple, but provides a clear powerful path forward. Behaviour awareness and focusing is not unique to ACT and it is widely considered a tenet in some capacity of DBT, CBT, Psychoanalysis, and even Bowen therapy theories of treating families or groups.
If you do not commit yourself to behaviour improvements, developing new skills, aligning with your values, or building awareness of your barriers, you are simply relying on an external force to fix you.
This is a crucial misconception and undermines the therapeutic or the self-development process.
Consider your needs and values carefully. If it isn't clear what you want to achieve, what do you put in effort for, and what is important to you, but you are still afraid of change? It might be that your fear or resistance to change is actually the barrier in your life, not a protector.