We tend to think that only negative changes hurt. We associate pain with loss, rejection and failure. However, there are positive changes in life that bring with them a dose of suffering. As the French writer Anatole France said: “all changes, even the most desired, bring a certain melancholy”.
Often these are chosen changes, which will likely make us feel better in the long term, but they are not free from an uneasiness that sometimes invades us in the form of sadness, melancholy or even anxiety.
If we are not prepared to face that discomfort, the initially positive change is likely to overwhelm us and the experience that initially seemed to be an easy path will become a full-blown viacrucis.
Every change is a leap into the void
In life some changes are chosen, others are imposed by circumstances. But they both take us out of the comfort zone, where we felt relatively safe and comfortable. The changes push us to abandon the safety mechanism we had established. And this can scare us.
Our brain prefers the permanence and stability provided by the familiar and the known. So when faced with a change, even if it is positive, it can activate a resistance mechanism. Resistance to change usually occurs when the future ahead of us scares us, generally because the environment is too demanding or too uncertain.
We cannot forget that even if a change is positive, such as a promotion at work, moving to another city or breaking up a toxic relationship, it is always an exercise in courage due to the degree of uncertainty it implies. Each change is, in its own way, a kind of leap into the void.
Some people, more than others, will find it difficult to overcome that uncertainty. Therefore, some positive changes in life can generate a lot of anxiety and stress.
The pain of saying goodbye to the past
It is assumed that if the change is positive, we should just feel excited, motivated and happy. But that's not always the case. The human mind is much more complex. Things are seldom wholly positive or wholly negative.
Changes involve continuing to advance, so we will have to leave behind experiences, habits or even people. To change is to say goodbye to some of the things that were part of our life or even our identity. And this can be particularly painful.
Renunciation is the price to pay when we want to enter a new phase of our life. In that case we can assume the change from an ambivalent posture because we know what we will gain, but we are also aware of what we will lose.
If we don't deal well with the pain that this goodbye can generate, attachment to the past can end up slowing down the path of transformation we had undertaken. It will become an obstacle that prevents us from moving forward.
This is why it is important to be aware that even if a change is positive, it can generate unexpected negative emotional states. To successfully get through that stage we must accept that pain. We must assume that any transformation is always an exchange of gains and losses between our past self and future self.
We also need to be prepared for the difficult days, which will inevitably come and make us want to throw in the towel. Indeed, the Trans-Theoretical Behavior Modification Model explains that the process of change does not occur in a linear fashion. We go through various stages where we go back and forth, going through them again until the transformation is fully consolidated.
In order not to collapse as we walk this path marked by ambivalent emotions and feelings, we must focus on the new opportunities that open up before us. Remember what motivated us to take that step. Focus on what we want to achieve. And try to update our current "I" to the new circumstances.
Changes, even if positive, are not always easy. But if we grow through them, it will be worth it.