Resistance to change is a major cause of immobility. When we don't accept change but cling to old ways of thinking or doing things, we condemn ourselves to living in frustration and dissatisfaction. In some cases, this resistance to change generates maladaptive responses that lead to psychological disturbances.
"Change is the only immutable thing," said Schopenhauer. Although we know this, we cannot always prevent an adverse force from unleashing by trying to keep the state of affairs unchanged. In fact, in our daily life we tend to function by inertia. Inertia leads us to maintain the status quo and to cling to what we know to maintain the balance that we have achieved with great effort.
Just as our body tends to homeostasis to maintain the balance of its functions, our brain prefers to work in "energy saving mode" avoiding shocks and revolutions that force it to change its neural patterns, those that allow us to react automatically . However, this inertia is not always positive and many times it can turn against us because life changes and we need to be able to adapt.
The causes of resistance to change
Some people are more resistant to change while others are more open. Several studies have shown that those with high emotional intelligence tend to accept changes better. It has also been found that those who react too emotionally, have a more rigid thinking, are more attached to customs and develop a short-term approach are more likely to resist change.
In any case, regardless of personality characteristics, there are other causes of resistance to change. These are common situations or fears that we can all experience and that lead us to cling to the past unnecessarily:
1. Fear of losing control. When we are faced with new situations for which we do not have cardinal points that allow us to orient ourselves, we can feel that the earth is shaking under our feet. Our sense of self-determination and autonomy crumble and we are frightened of the prospect of losing control. The sensation is not pleasant, so our first impulse is to cling to the known in order to feel safe again. When this is the cause of resistance to change, it is important to remember that control is just an illusion.
2. Excess of uncertainty. Some changes can make us feel like we are walking a tightrope blindfolded, so it's normal for them to generate strong resistance. When we don't know what's going to happen, it's understandable that we prefer to stay where we are, even if we don't feel completely good there. Sometimes we simply prefer the known bad to the good to know, as the saying goes. Overcoming inertia requires a minimum of security and trust. When we don't have them, it's easier to entrench ourselves in our comfort zone. In these cases, we need to remind ourselves that uncertainty, while difficult to manage, is not our enemy.
3. Surprise! Situations that surprise us often generate a defensive reaction. We all need some time to get used to some ideas or prepare to face certain circumstances, even the most positive ones. So when changes happen unexpectedly, our first reaction is to take a step back to protect ourselves from the unknown. In these cases, the resistance to change tends to decrease as we process what has happened.
4. Too radical. All changes bring something different, but how different? We are beings of habit. Routines automate and give us some security in daily life, they make our life more predictable, so too radical changes tend to destabilize us. In fact, it's easier to accept a big change when it happens a little at a time, than the radical transformation that shakes our beliefs and unties the rope that keeps our boat safely moored in port. Big changes can confuse and scare us because they leave us with no cardinal points to guide us. In this case, we must think that radical changes can represent a great opportunity to rethink many things in our life, which otherwise would have continued on autopilot.
5. Lack of confidence. I can do it? One of the causes of resistance to change is precisely the fear of not being able to cope with everything or of not having the skills or strength necessary to face the new scenario. Sometimes, for example, we can feel too old to start over. Or we may question our ability to function in new environments for which we are not prepared. In those cases, a familiarization period that allows us to gradually step into change may be enough to gain confidence.
6. Fear of repercussions. Changes are usually like a stone falling into a pond. They start with a small wave, but then the waves replicate to an unsuspected size. For this reason, sometimes, the cause of resistance to change lies in the fear of consequences that we cannot predict, do not know how to manage or are beyond our control. When we make drastic changes in our lives, for example, we can worry about the repercussions they will have on those closest to us. Sometimes that fear keeps us connected, even though we know that change is the best solution. In these cases, we can try to minimize the impact of these repercussions.
7. Fear of rejection. Many changes bring the seed of novelty, not only for us but also for those around us. Sometimes, we don't dare to make a decision simply because we fear that others will not accept it and will end up rejecting us. The fear of separating ourselves from the group, which we identify as a source of safety and protection, is one of the causes of resistance to change that keeps us tied to circumstances that are not suitable for us. In these cases we must overcome the fear of rejection through self-affirmation.
8. Past trauma. Ghosts of the past are always lurking. As long as everything remains stable, they remain calm, but when something else comes along, they can spring into action. Change can reopen old wounds, trigger historical resentments, or remind us of old failures. Meeting a new partner, for example, can activate all the emotional wounds of the past, causing us to move away for fear of being hurt again. To overcome this fear we must heal the past before navigating into the future. We need to give ourselves time to heal so old wounds don't reopen and we can embrace change with serenity and joy.
9. Exhaustion. There are stages in life where we are so saturated that any change, no matter how small, becomes the last straw that breaks the camel's back. There are situations of great stress or uncertainty where we simply cannot cope with further changes because our psychological resources are depleted. These changes, positive or negative, represent more work and tension for us, so it is understandable that we resist. In this case the problem is not the change itself but our psychological state, the resistance to change is only showing that there are things that we must solve to regain serenity.
10. Real threat. Sometimes changes pose a real threat. In situations of great uncertainty or when we have to make important decisions, the possibility of making mistakes hovers over our heads like a threatening shadow. This creates an understandable fear that causes resistance to change. In other cases it is not an inherent threat but rather the pain that change can generate. In fact, most major changes in life involve a change of direction in which we have to give up something or leave someone behind. This can hurt. Then the prospect of pain paralyzes us. But we must remember that every decision always involves a renunciation, so it's just a matter of having clear priorities and goals.
Understanding the causes of resistance to change will help us minimize the discomfort we feel when faced with new situations, both positive and negative. When we accept the change, everything flows better and we experience infinitely less pain.