“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” -Viktor Frankl
I just finished reading a wonderful, thought-provoking book-“You Can Heal Your Heart: Finding Peace After a Breakup, Divorce, or Death” by Louise Hay and David Kessler (2014.) The authors discuss using affirmations to change our thought processes surrounding loss. I’ll write a future post on grief, as it definitely deserves it own space. For now, though, I want to take a step back and think about how we look at any transition in our lives, as most of us don’t particularly enjoy them.
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who told me they like change. In fact, most people that I know say they hate it. In my very humble opinion, the way that we all talk about change needs to change. It is not a four letter word, yet our society is full of people who all say we hate it. Our society which is changing all the time is full of people saying we hate change!
If we bring about our own change, that feels slightly better, right? Job changes, having babies, buying a new house, taking up a new hobby-these are all things that we typically choose. While they come with stress of adjusting to a new lifestyle, we don’t seem to dread it as much because our expectations are that life will improve in some way. We get a better paying job, we move to a bigger house, we expand our family, we start a new exercise program, all in an effort to improve and fulfill our lives. We are willing to put up with a bit of adjustment or discomfort in order to reach our goal. Sure, a move is expensive and stressful, but we’ll do it in order to have our dream house. Our expectations change how we view a situation and how we experience it.
The tougher situations are when the change is an undesired one. We are fired or laid off from our job and have to find a new one quickly. While we do as much as we can, we know we can’t force someone to hire us, and we lose 100% control over how, when, and where we find a new position. Our thoughts follow suit-we worry about how long it will take, how long we can last without a paycheck, or how quickly our bank account will get depleted. Worry changes our expectations. Anxiety interferes with our thinking. We think unhelpful things like it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. We may being to worry that we won’t find as good of a job, or one that pays as well. Our worry may set our expectations without our even realizing it. We may expect the worst. We may make ourselves more uncomfortable during an already uncomfortable process.
In their chapter where job loss is highlighted, Hay and Kessler argue our society places our identity and value on our jobs. They illustrate how we ask a person “What do you do?” very soon after meeting them. In the example above, the authors suggest certain affirmations such as “My value lies beyond any job” (page 155) in order to remember our intrinsic value as human beings. They recommend we not think poorly of ourselves because we lost our job, and I would argue we can apply this logic to any chance we face. Because of our expectation- our identity is our job- and because of anxiety (worry about the future) we come to “hate” the process.
Similar to the authors, I’m going to suggest asking yourself some questions, regardless of what you’re facing: what if we had no expectations? What if we looked at things more like a mathematical equation, and simply tried to find a solution? Or, what if we agreed sometimes there is no answer? What if we simply had faith in ourselves? What if we looked at change as singularly neutral events-things that either happen or don’t happen-and focused on what we can control instead of what we can’t? What if we stop thinking of people as lucky or unlucky? How would you feel if you approached change with faith, strength, and love? How would you feel if you didn’t think of change as a four letter word? What if you chose to validate yourself as strong and able to manage the discomfort of what lies ahead of you?
Hay and Kessler say we don’t have to like all that has happened, but we can still feel positive about how we handle it. If we hate change and all that comes with it, we will feel negative. We deserve so much more- we deserve love. We deserve love even in the face of unwanted change, even if it means changing ourselves and the way we think about it.
The authors have many great points throughout, and I think we can take their lessons on a broader scale (check out the book here.) For me, anger, resentment, and hatred stay stuck in a very uncomfortable place. But love moves. Love grows, and blooms, and turns into things more beautiful than we can ever anticipate.