On the verge of change, but nothing is happening?
Do you have a strong urge for change in your life, but you don't know where to look and when to start?
Do you feel restless, and you know that somewhere inside a new idea or thought wants to come out, but the words fail? Are you worried, that whatever change might be around the corner, might happen too late to have a meaningful impact on your life?
At this time of a new calendar year, you may go through the motions of having a go at resolutions, or you may ignore the whole thing. You may feel the added pressure of finally sorting yourself out, in whatever way makes sense, or not - as long as it is change.
If any of this sounds familiar, then what can you do to get through this well? Here are two suggestions.
1. Stop for a minute and ask yourself the obvious: What is it, that has brought on this urgent longing for change?
- Has anything happened - like a bereavement, health issue, birthday, relationship difficulty, job loss - that makes you re-assess where you are at in your life? Or has it been creeping up on you, a slow drip-drip sense of not wanting to be where you are or who you are in your life?
- Some of this may only manifest itself as a sense of unhappiness, lack of fulfillment and purpose, of loneliness, anxiety and feeling down or depressed. Not knowing what to do for the best and where to turn can make the whole thing a lot worse and sometimes unbearable.
Without wanting to belittle the real sense of despair you might feel, let me suggest something that might help. It is not a solution, because that is the one thing you like the rest of us have to figure out for yourself.
What I am talking about is another way you might look at your dilemma with change. One that might start to replace the sense of doomed desperation with a new sense of you being in charge, and your situation having an important purpose.
2. Have quiet word in you own ear:
- Tell yourself: "Stay calm and don't get stressed out." Remember when you were a child, all eyes on you to get something right at school or at home? That pressure of expectation then and now does not do anyone any good. You will master it all in your own good time, and for that you need to stay relaxed.
- Reassure yourself: "I am going through a time of change, and it might be tough. That is perfectly normal and often necessary." It is not about having failed, or done something wrong. We find it a lot easier to accept and welcome changes in our taste for clothing, food, hobbies or even friends. That's normal and the same applies to other (perhaps more substantial) changes we may want or need to make in our lives, like the work we do, the way we live and where, or the relationships we have.
- Why not try a more positive approach: "I am onto something good, new opportunities and options."
- Give yourself permission: "At the end of the day, the choice will be mine and I won't have to do anything, I don't feel ready for."
- You are your own expert: "I will know and recognise the change that I need now and what works best for me. Eventually, it will become clear in my own mind."
- Make a deal with yourself: "For all that to happen, I will need to remain calm and pay attention to my thoughts and feelings. Because that's where the clue for change will be." While feelings and thoughts like 'I feel rotten, lonely, fed up, useless' can be very real and overwhelming, positive change can only happen, if you can observe the feeling or thought and understand what lies at the bottom of it. More often than not, that's where your direction for change lies, too.
Now, there are at least two snags with all this, and you might have already spotted it.
First, you need to have patience. Patience can be infuriating, because we want it all yesterday. Because being measured and waiting is not always encouraged in a world which is about immediacy and solutions. Patience can be hard and painful, because it means facing up to and enduring difficulties without running for a quick fix, which ultimately doesn't make it better. But patience is an integral part of change, which comes from within and has a positive meaning for your life.
Second, you need to like yourself, at least a little, otherwise 'a word in your ear' will not sound like calm, hopeful encouragement, but instead like bitter, hopeless and empty words which cannot conceal the self-doubt or even self-loathing you may have for yourself.
If you want change but don't like yourself, then I would suggest, there is your answer. The change needed first and foremost is about starting to like yourself - which may be about having some compassion with yourself. Notice when you are harsh, critical and even self-destructive with yourself. Do you really deserve that? I think not.
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About Karin Sieger
Karin Sieger is a registered and BACP accredited psychotherapist with a private practice in central Richmond (Surrey). She specialises in supporting people deal with anxiety, loss, relationship issues and chronic illnesses like cancer.