What is it about change that makes people react so fearfully?
This is not a rhetorical question. My podcast this week is all about change and changing, and as I was working on it, I really had to ask myself — why are we so scared of change?
There are, I believe, two main reasons why we fear change. The first is a belief in lack and scarcity, and being afraid of what happens when we run out of…whatever. The second and probably larger matter is losing comfort. We get comfortable with the way things are, and change can be very, very uncomfortable.
Before I dive into this, let’s take into account two key facts:
· The Universe is in a constant state of change
· Change is inevitable
The Universe is always changing. Whether it is a galaxy expanding or a star collapsing, change is happening. From the smallest subatomic particle to the largest star, they do not stagnate. Change happens.
Every time you breathe you change the air around you. When you walk, you shift air particles. The sun rises and sets. All of these are impersonal; on a personal level, however, you are changing. You are aging, life experience and outside influences impact your perceptions. Who you are today may be very similar to who you were yesterday and who you will become tomorrow, but it is still different. Change is inevitable.
This can be hard for people to accept. Because of that, we get these reactionary ideas and actions that are backwards. Because change is constant, you cannot undo what has been done — but you can choose to make a different choice and impact change from there.
Lack and scarcity are mostly artificial
The first fear people have when it comes to change is belief in lack and scarcity. Whether the things that may be scarce or lacking are a tangible or an intangible, change that impacts them scares us.
Some of the people “in power” totally use this to their advantage. They use this fear of lack and scarcity to attempt to stop or redirect change.
For example: Migrants will take your jobs; people of color will strip away our culture; non-Christians will force you to submit to their ways. Look familiar? All of these play on fear based in change.
Specifically, these types of things play on the fear that we will run out of ‘X’, and there is not enough of ‘Y’. When we believe that there is a lack of something that will cause change, we often fear it. Lack and scarcity are unwanted and uncomfortable.
The thing is, we actually live in an abundant Universe. When we run out of something, something else will turn up to replace it. Oh, look at that — change happens. This is particularly true of tangibles.
There is a finite amount of fossil fuels and coal. True. However, there are other resources we can use for our power needs, such as wind and solar. To better utilize them, we need to embrace change. Rather than resist them, we can improve upon them, and maybe even figure out alternatives like we see in science fiction, such as antimatter or cold fusion.
By the same token, the gold standard has been mostly replaced by an utterly artificial system. As such, money is not scarce — but belief in its scarcity helps certain people disempower others.
Lack and scarcity of intangibles can be a bit more complicated. For the most part, this ties into the fear of losing comfort.
Nobody likes to be uncomfortable
I know this is a generality, but overall people do not like to be uncomfortable. We seek comfort in both the material and immaterial. However, the material is all about the immaterial.
We get comfortable in our homes, our clothes, our cars, the people we surround ourselves with. That’s the material. What it’s really all about is how we feel. We feel familiar with these things, we FEEL comfortable. There is a certain amount of relief, contentment, and even pleasure in feeling comfortable.
More than this, however, is the comfort we take in the labels we assign ourselves. These labels include gender; sexual preference; nationality; religion; hair, skin, and eye color; cultural heritage; and numerous other superficial and artificial factors.
Change that impacts these things makes people uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable due to change makes change scary. Some people react to this by internalizing it and getting depressed, sour, and unhappy. But then, some people externalize this, and as such you get alt-right conservatives, white supremacists, religious zealots, and similar reactionaries.
When people resist change because they fear how it will make them feel uncomfortable, they tend to close off and resist. They cannot accept the key facts of constant Universal change and its inevitability, and fight to keep things the same.
Let me just put this out there — this is impossible. Change happens.
Yet when you acknowledge this, you can alter how you see change, and rather than resist it, work with it. Influence and even control it. Embrace it.
Change is opportunity
To be fair, there is any number of changes over which you have no control. When you accept that, however, you empower yourself to work with the aspects of change you CAN control. As such, you can use change as an opportunity.
When you are mindful of your thoughts and feelings, you can influence and control how you think and feel about change. Rather than resist it, you can either embrace it or find an alternative to it.
Also remember, most of what you fear being taken from you is not truly being taken. As such, any influence or control you exert over change should only impact you, and not take away from anyone else.
It is important, however, to be aware of how you view the Universe. Do you see the Universe as a place of lack and scarcity, or one of abundance? If the former, you are going to have more work to overcome the fear and resistance to change.
Lack and scarcity are superficial or artificial. When you can recognize this, and instead see the abundance of the Universe, you may find you start to crave change, rather than fear it.
Finally, it’s important that I put this out there: You are worthy and deserving of influencing and controlling change. Don’t be afraid, you can create almost anything you desire, and embracing or making your own changes can be amazing and awesome. Use change, rather than being used by change. You are worthy and deserving of that.
You’ve got this. Go out there, and seek change you desire to create. Be bold, be brave, and know that change can be your opportunity to shine as brightly as you can.