Change Takes as Long as it Takes

Newsletter, Issue 4

We live in a world obsessed with change and improvement. Everything has targets, as if these are the answer and will miraculously make things ‘better’. In business, the message is often ‘adapt and change, or die’.

Managing Changes in Our Personal Lives

But what of change in our personal lives? How do we handle the natural changes as we grow up and grow older? The transition from child to adolescent, from adolescent to adult, from being single to being in relationship, from falling ‘in love’ to a deeper, sustainable intimacy, becoming a mother or father? What support or understanding do we have to help us grow and live through these? What expectations do we have of ourselves and others in these changes?

With so much focus on ‘successfully achieving’ change, it’s not surprising that when we are going through such a transition, or realise we are not happy in ourselves, or in our relationships, we often feel impatient to change quickly. We are in a hurry to move towards where we think we ‘should’ be, to what we think we want, and can punish ourselves, and our partner’s, when we aren’t reaching our ‘goal’. What happens when this goal becomes more important than our individual needs, our own natural timing, and their expression within our relationships?

It’s easy for me to write this as one of the ‘Impatient’ (just ask my husband!). Motherhood and my work continue to teach me a lot about being with what’s there and needed rather than just my ideas and desire to put them into action!

The growth of life coaching and positive psychology over the last ten years seems to reflect our expectation and need to be happier in ourselves, and the desire to do it quickly. And it’s great that as individuals we are starting to take responsibility for our happiness.

Change Sometimes Feels Impossible

But how do we handle it when things don’t change however much we try or do? When we don’t change quickly, or struggle to change at all, I notice it is usually because we are not ‘able’ to at some unconscious, unthinking level.

Perhaps we feel we will leave part of ourselves behind in the process, or perhaps unconsciously we feel there is too greater cost to us in our relationship or family with a belief they need us to be as we are. As we become more aware of ourselves we have new choices in how to grow individually, and also to be with the resulting changes in our close relationships.

In our relationships we unconsciously maintain ‘the rules’ or way we relate to each other even when it isn’t making us happy, and it takes a lot to break the familiar pattern and move into the unknown. Sometimes it even takes a third party; a career, an affair, a therapist or coach. Sadly, some ways are more destructive than others and harder to recover from, but all are an attempt, however unconsciously to break the deadlock.

Harriet Lerner writes about this in ‘The Dance of Intimacy’, and it is well worth a read if you’re wondering if what you’re experiencing in relationship is normal.

What is Your Relationship with Change?

For everyone who feels that they’ve wasted time, or if you feel in a hurry, take a moment to be curious about what you have gained, or are gaining, from taking time to change. Notice what you want to hold onto and do not want to change. What we forget to acknowledge is our unconscious knowing of what we need, and the wisdom we have about ourselves. We may never understand it, but I encourage you to trust when things take time it is because they need to.

Change is a constant. The real question is, are we aware of our relationship with change?


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