Dear Why Team member,
I hope this message finds you well. This week we consider change and why it can often cause us to become fearful.
Consider the last time your expectation did not align with reality. Did you leverage the question why, asking why it made you uncomfortable? The more significant the misalignment of our expectation to the arrived upon reality, what we believed would happen versus what did happen, the more significant our emotional response. - Why?
When our expectations don't come true, it's a reminder that we are not in control. Every day presents, with little emotional affect, small reminders that we are not fully in control, however, it is the big reminders, when they arrive, that often garner our full attention.
That which we cannot control, we fear. Consider the movement of a snake; we would fear snakes less if they would just move in a straight line, it's all that unpredictable back and forth that is particularly fear inducing. Our brains are largely prediction machines seeking to bring order into a disorderly world. We humans like predictability. The unpredictable taps into our primordial fear of death, our core human fear. It is predictable that we will die, but it is unpredictable when and how it will happen. In fact, the great majority of our automatic mental functioning is preoccupied with keeping our bodies alive. Past mistakes are vividly registered onto our psyche as not to be repeated. Since most of life is mildly positive and thus rarely registered into our memory, in time, if we are not careful, we can come to have a skewed view of the world as a more dangerous place than it is.
When we resist reality, we suffer. When our expectations misalign with reality, we hurt. Unfortunately, it is during these times of fear, storing these experiences into our psyche, that we can come to be more prone to worry about the future.
There is little to no benefit to rejecting what is true. As the sayings go, "Resistance is futile" and "It is what it is." In fact, was it not said that the truth will set us free? Set us free of what? Our fear of what is? I think so.
Nothing imprisons us like fear. Resisting, "what is," may be the source of our greatest emotional suffering.
Consider one of the reasons an American tourist in Moscow might seek out a McDonalds restaurant. After so much unpredictability abroad, it's nice to know in advance what you're getting when you order your lunch. It is comforting to have our expectations met. This may explain why so many of us order the same meal at our favorite restaurants. McDonalds may not have the best hamburgers, but they do have predictable hamburgers and we humans love predictable.
Why do people stay in bad relationships? For many, apparently, it's better to be with the devil you know, than the one you don't.
Why do we love predictability? Because predictability gives us a sense of control, it gives us comforting confidence that we can handle what the unknown future will bring. However, when the unknown does not give us what we expected and/or predicted, we are reminded that we are not fully in control, that life can change on a dime. Tomorrow, in fact, is promised to no one, "Thanks for reminding me."
Change taps directly into our core human fear, the fear of death. The unknown future holds our greatest promise and it also holds our greatest fear, the fear of our own physical death. With this awareness, it's perfectly understandable why we humans have so much anxiety when it comes to the unknown future. So what are we to do? Predict, of course, expect, find patterns, seek knowledge. Maybe it's not so much knowledge we seek, but rather certainty we seek, certainty in an uncertain world.
Change reminds us of death. Why? Because change is the end of something that we knew and the beginning of something yet to be known. Change is a loss, the loss of our certainty. Remember, when it comes to thought, we all have a choice. The choice we want may no longer be available, but there is always still a choice. We can choose to fear the unknown future with our largely automatic response to change, or we can more intentionally look for the silver linings and the possibilities for a brighter tomorrow. Of course things could get worse, but they could also get better, the choice is ours on what to expect. The quality of our expectation for tomorrow determines the quality of our life today. How many times in your past have you believed the end was near, only to find eventually, in retrospect, that the new beginning you received was a gift? What are you predicting, what are you expecting? And if you are so good at predicting, why is it that what you thought would happen, didn't happen? Oh, I suppose you'll be right this time? One of my favorite quotes conveys that there are two types of people in the world, those who are humble and those who are about to be. Few things in life humble us more than when life shows up differently than we expected, many call these character building experiences. Why? Because when we experience emotional pain, it is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, more about our strengths and our weaknesses. Our mindsets can reduce or even eliminate our capacity for joy and hope. Don't let change tap into your core fear of death and lead you to resist, get angry and try to bend the world to your old expectation. Disappointment is natural, feel it, be sad, then consider finding a way to be glad. When we accept what is, we increase our power to influence what will be.
Let us gain awareness around this, realigning our expectations to reality when it appears, to live a more peaceful and ultimately a more influential life. I once heard, "that which we resist persists" and "what we don't face, stays in our face."
As Virginia Satir said, "Most people prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty" and now we know why. Without hope for the future, which we must feed and nurture, we are prone to stay with the devil we know. Might I add, that the devil we don't know, the unknown future, might not be a devil at all.
Our greatest possibilities are in that unknown future and if we are to reap them, we must sow them with hope, faith and confidence today, otherwise we won't take that first step that can take us a thousand miles. Life is a choice; live down to our fears or live up to our possibilities. Why choose the low road of certainty when the high road can lead to so much opportunity. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Consider more intentionally planning for the best, embracing life more with a yes, taking the road less traveled, the road best traveled, to experience a life more abundant.
Make it a great week,
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