Hesitance To Heal; Why Do We Avoid Needed Change?
Sometimes, we find ourselves in a situation where we truly don’t know what to do. But a more common situation is one where we know exactly or approximately what we should do and, yet, we don’t go through with it. Let’s take a look at an example.
A woman has a partner who has not worked in a couple of years. He lives off her money and in her house and doesn’t help with the housework. He complains that she doesn’t pay him enough attention and that she slacks off around the home. He insults her and treats her badly. Is the solution to this problem clear? Of course. The woman should break up with her partner, and she knows this. However, she might try to be patient and to adjust to the situation in other ways rather than going through with this decision and with this significant change.
This situation is repeated in many aspects of our life. We might want a new job and we know what to do – write a resume, look for jobs, call, ask and so on, but we don’t. We know that our problems might need counseling or therapy, but we don’t seek out a professional. Why does this happen? Why do we resist change even when it will be helpful?
There are several reasons behind a resistance to change, and they might appear at the same time or be more significant at some point. Let’s take a look at some of these factors.
A first reason behind the resistance to change is insecurity and lack of confidence. Confidence can be seen as believing in one’s own abilities and skills to achieve a goal and to manage a new situation. A person might feel that if the situation changes, their abilities and skills won’t be enough to manage it adequately.
Let’s go back to the example of the woman and her partner. The woman might feel frustrated with the situation, but she fears that if she breaks up with her partner, she will not be able to handle it. She fears being alone and making decisions by herself. She might fear not being able to find a new partner or not being able to handle being by herself. She might also be afraid of the conflict that a break-up will create and that she won’t be strong enough to manage the problem. In general, the woman doubts herself and chooses not to go through with anything, because she is not sure she can manage the change in the situation.
Fear of failure
We live in a culture where mistakes are often equated with utter failure. Mistakes are seen as being very negative rather than just learning opportunities. Often, people are raised with the idea that they need to do things “properly”, that is, perfectly, or not do things at all.
The possibility of failure is always a reality. However, our perception might exaggerate the possibility of failure or just how catastrophic is it really going to be. The person feels that they need to do things perfectly or face negative consequences. Still, this is not a realistic perception.
Let’s take a look at a person who does not seek a new job, for example. The person might be very afraid of rejection and of being turned down. Rejection is a very real possibility, but it is also a normal part of the job-hunting process. The fear of failing paralyzes the person so much that they don’t go through with what they need and what they want.
A very firghtening aspect of change is that we don’t have complete certainty over the outcome. Rationally, we might know that something is probably good for us and will be, most likely, easier and better than what we have now. However, there is often a part of us that is not happy with the idea of change, because there is not a 100% guarantee that it will be fine. Sometimes, the problem becomes more difficult, because change might involve a period of discomfort or a period of adaptation that might be unpleasant. It also becomes harder when we don’t know anything about the process or when our knowledge is limited by stereotypes.
For example, let’s consider the person who avoids seeking out therapy. The person might feel that there is no guarantee that the therapy will be effective and that they won’t end up hurt or feeling even worse. The person might also have a very vague idea of what therapy is and go by images from films about people talking on a couch for years or about receiving electroshock therapy.
So, these are three common reasons for resisting change in the cases where change is more positive. What can be done about these reasons?
A person who feels insecurity can work to improve their confidence and to develop more trust in their own abilities. This often involves a time-invested process, however, the results are worth it.
Fear of failure might also involve changing ideas about failure and mistakes, as well as working with the person’s perfectionism to make it less restrictive and paralyzing.
Uncertainty can be worked with by research and investigation, as well as by working with the person’s ideas and misconceptions, as well as with the tolerance the person has to ambiguous and uncertain situations.
In general, fear of positive change might be rooted in deeper fears or doubts that can be worked with in therapy with a seasoned and experienced professional. Getting help is a courageous step towards healing and change.
Texas Recovery Support / Ben Carrettin