This month I was asked to respond to “dealing with forced change,” when someone else makes a choice that then “negatively impacts you.” To be more specific and use examples that help illustrate points, I’m going to relate this to when someone makes a choice such as to end a relationship or your employment. However, the concepts will apply to any example we can think of when someone makes a decision that then negatively (or so it seems) impacts us.
Let’s start with some understanding and compassion. Change is hard for our human brain. It is built to predict, categorize, seek familiarity. So when a situation that has been predictable and constant changes, our brain has a difficult time “computing.” Unknowns are challenging for our brain. Add in that we tend to predict negative outcomes (evolutionarily this was super helpful for survival), we can see how the message our brain sends when something changes without our permission, is, “This is bad!”
Despite our brain’s best efforts to keep us safe and focused on what is constant and predictable, the reality is that life is changing every moment. Small things and larger things are always changing. We have no control over anything external including other people and how they think, how the millions of circumstances we are exposed to have developed over years and years, the weather. Change is going to happen, and it’s going to happen constantly.
Using a mindfulness perspective, we can choose to mindfully observe how we are reacting to changes, the unfolding of the experience moment by moment. With a lot of mindfulness practice, this gets easier. For most of us, though, we get caught up in the emotions (fear, anxiety, anger) when change is happening that we don’t want and isn’t in our control.
So, how do we deal with unwanted change? We can look for silver linings. We can find the positives in the situation. We can list the pros and cons. We can think of the doors opening when this one closes. We can hang out with those that love us and support us unconditionally.
Sometimes, these still don’t make it easier to swallow. If that’s the case, doing nothing is a good option. Yep. Nothing. When our body is having a stress reaction, all sorts of systems in our body are wanting to react, “do something about it,” or “fix it.” When our emotions are making the decisions for us, though, we at times sabotage ourselves or make situations even more stressful. This is a good opportunity for us to practice being with our experience without judging it (good, bad, right, wrong, should, shouldn’t). “This is the experience. I don’t like it. I can accept that this is reality.”
Meditation can be helpful. (Reminder: meditation isn’t about making our mind absolutely quiet – it’s about observing our experience (our thoughts) without attaching.) Journaling can be helpful.
To dig a bit deeper, we can lean into trusting. Trusting that we are supported and that the Universe (please plug in whatever term/word works for you – God, Goddess, energy, love, Buddha, Elvis, etc.) has our back. We don’t have to understand it, or know how all of the circumstance that led up to this point in fact led up to this point, or even how it’s all going to turn out. Trusting also means that we trust that we have the resilience it takes to get through any tough situation and the emotions that go along with it. Trusting also means that we know we already, inherently, unconditionally, have an abundance of love, worth, and value despite any external circumstances (relationships, jobs, material possessions). It’s all internal and has been there before we were born and will be with us until the end.
One last point until next time: The next step is going to be letting go. Letting go of what you had imaged for yourself (i.e., for a relationship, opportunities you were going to have in that job). And with this, comes releasing and forgiving. Releasing and forgiving is what sets us free from suffering. This is another One Moment Shifts topic in and of itself. If you’re interested in knowing more about this step, request that it be a topic in the next Shifts e-mail, check out the upcoming Power Series, practice sessions, and Women‘s Mindfulness Day retreat.
Change is tough. It’s how we choose to move through it that makes the difference.
Have topics or questions you’d like me to address in a Shift or a vlog? E-mail me and let me know!