By Aalif Surti
…but scared to? Here are 10 mind strategies for avoiding change. Find out which one is yours and free yourself of its power, says Aalif Surti
I don’t need clarity!” a friend of mine argued. “I already know where I am stuck and what I need to do; I only wish I had the will power.” She had called me for advice because she felt at the crossroads in life. But she was convinced that what she needed more of was discipline, courage, commitment and will power.
I smiled, remembering how often I had said the same thing to my mentor GD. And he had gently reminded me that ‘if I could clearly see where the door was, I didn’t need courage or will power to find the way out.’
Like many of my friends, I had reached a crossroad in my life last year. I was finding it hard to make a decision. While the situation deteriorated externally, I vacillated for months because I felt I didn’t have the money, the courage, the discipline, the will power, the practical skills or support system… Finally, it took a timely slip disc to help me make my decision that I needed to change the way I was living and working. My mind was in overdrive in those days, telling me all the reasons why it wasn’t right or safe or responsible to make a change. So I had asked my brother and spiritual lighthouse, GD, for his advice.
In the midst of that internal traffic noise, when GD began identifying the hidden mind-strategies which keep us stuck at crossroads, all I could say was ‘wow, that’s me!’ with every one of them. Knowing these strategies helped me to ease out of my stuck situation without struggling against myself. Knowing them took away their power.
When GD switched on the lights, the terrible giant shadow cast on the wall turned out to be a small rat. Without this clarity, I could have spent a lifetime shadow-boxing and proving to myself and others how impossible it was to change one’s life. The interesting thing was that after I made the decision and took the action, I wondered what all the fuss was about. And a year since, I can truly wonder why the best thing to ever happen to me seemed like such an unsurmountable challenge.
With the intention of saving others from slip discs and similar dramatic deciding factors, I have written an elaboration of GD’s pointers on the all-time top 10 strategies for avoiding change. In brackets is the energy frequency at which each excuse vibrates. Which one is yours?
1. I don’t know what I really want (confusion):
For many people, this cloud of apparent confusion keeps them occupied for months, maybe years. They know clearly that they don’t want the current situation but they don’t know what they really want.
This is not unnatural in itself – often only the immediate next step is revealed to us in life. But the mind uses it as a device to stay in the current place. ‘Until I can figure out exactly what’s ahead,’ it says, ‘I can’t move.’ It demands the ‘what, when, how and why’ of the future path right now, else it will remain rooted. Or it will spend days and long nights grappling with itself to try and figure out the right answers. But the mind cannot know these answers, else it would have given you the answers the first time you asked!
At such points, the mind doesn’t see the price it is paying every day for staying in the current place – the price to health, marriage, family, self-esteem and sanity.
My learning: If even a single step is absolutely clear, take it. And trust the Universe to show you the next step once you take the first.
2. I need just a little bit more time/clarity/courage/support/money (greed):
The most common excuse it that the time has not yet come. Yes, I am unhappy but I’m only five years from retirement. Yes, I hate my job but I want to make a little more money while the going is good.
If only I had more clarity, I would have the courage to leave.
If only I had more courage, I could be clear with my bosses. If I had more support from the world, then I could leave. All of them end with a common, unspoken, second clause… BUT NOT NOW.
And trying and struggling gives a feeling of motion. Even if it is that of the rat chasing cheese inside a cage until it drops from exhaustion.
The interesting thing is, to the untrained eye, such a person can often give the impression of someone who’s really trying hard to break the shackles. He may be earnestly seeking advice, or claiming amazing breakthroughs and showering gratitude for it. But they are all ways of continuing to stay in the same place for some more time.
3. I can’t let them win (anger/blame):
In some cases, the job relationship can become as fraught with one-upmanship as a marital relationship and quitting becomes a sign that the other has won. Like anyone in the world cares. Five years from now, you may not even remember what the fight was about. You realise at some point, if not today, that this is your life. Bless them and get on with it. This is a classic lose-lose situation: both will always lose if they are carrying anger, blame and revenge.
4. What will people say? (fear of judgement):
Every language probably has a phrase to this effect, which is a show-stopper in any discussion about the future. In India, it is the Bollywood cliché ‘Log kya kehenge?’ which comes with inbuilt melodramatic background music. The mind can make this an obsession.
Here’s a shocking truth: the bottomline is that you don’t really care about what other people say. You care only about what their statements will trigger within you. The thing we are truly scared of are our own thoughts and feelings revealing something about us we don’t want to see.
5. What’s the point? (pessimism/resignation):
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The fear of change can crystallise over time into a polished cynical veneer. For example, ‘What’s the point of another boyfriend – all men are the same underneath the surface.’ This one is sometimes difficult to catch because the words are often right, but the space from which they come is a dead giveaway. Underneath its brilliantly crafted arguments, this one vibrates with the energy of resignation and pessimism.
A cousin of this one is ‘I don’t really want it’. This is an amazing belief, which vibrates at the frequency of fear, while masquerading as acceptance. It can even be made to appear as spiritual ‘desirelessness’.
6. I’ll never get anything else better than this (insecurity/unworthiness):
A particular recession-time favourite, it comes in handy at all times.
This one vibrates to the frequency of self-doubt and unworthiness about one’s chances in the outside world. Mostly it is that the job sucks but the money is good. This, in my experience, is rarely true. Even in normal HR terms, the best salary jumps are when one moves out of a company, not staying within the same place. But if you continue to stay in a job that grinds down your self-esteem and passion, this may turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
7. Waiting for a sign (false hope):
This is a cute variation peculiar to certain god-fearing folk: waiting for a sign from the Heavens that they can now pursue their happiness. As if God was punishing them for something till then. So until there is an Existential clue, some Divine intervention, astrological advice, or channelled alien message, how dare they seek their highest good? Like with all the other pointers, this one too could be an Existential situation for a few people. Sometimes, GD says, there is a waiting period in life, which is not a problem at all. In many cases though, waiting for a sign often becomes a clever means of avoiding the next step. As GD once said to such a lady: ‘You wouldn’t recognise the sign even if the sign-post hit you on the head’.
8. Fear of facing oneself (fear):
The real fear of leaving a job is that you will have to face all your deficiencies, GD says. As long as you have a boss or a partner, you can project your flaws on them. Without them, where will you put your hat?
Yes, some people do find God/fate a useful concept for this but nothing like partners and bosses as a much-maligned interactive screen on which to project one’s own issues. The real fear is that one would have to face the whole brunt of one’s life, one’s habits and tendencies. One would have to give up one’s excuses – and that can be very, very scary.
9. Loss of identity (fear):
To many people it truly feels like the loss of money is the real barrier on the path to perfect happiness. It felt like that to me, until I met three people in one day who had all somehow come into money through various sources – inheritance, company sell-out and selling family land. And I asked them all if it was easier now to quit. They unanimously agreed: it made no difference.
It is the loss of identity that leaving a company implies that is even scarier. Going from somebody to nobody is scary. We use all the trappings of success to keep from facing ourselves because it feels like such a scary, dark hole to be ‘undefined’.
But it could also be the most uplifting, liberating experience of your life. Then one can truly play on the playground of life.
10. Fear of your own power (fear):
There is a striking sentence in A Course in Miracles, which says that ‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure’. It speaks of a dimension of magnificence outside the persona – a space of true power, freedom and playfulness. GD says the ego is afraid of this because there is no space for its drama and fears – it has no use there. There is no space for its rules, structures and for the fear-based planning which justifies its existence. There is a part of the ego that is always afraid of the next level in our evolution. Because it makes the current knowledge, lifestyle, and dramas redundant. So the mind creates irrational fears to avoid this.
It wants the next level, but it can’t let go of the current level’s safety, security and familiarity. So it resorts to magical thinking and prays for the new thing to land without the old one vacating the space.
“The truth,” GD had advised me when I asked him what I should do, “is that in life we are not always given the full answer. Often, we are given only the next step. But when that step is clear, you should act on it. There could be a temporary period of uncertainty, panic, fear but so what? When you shift to a new house or a new city, however beautiful, there is a period of discomfort. It’s part of the game – and within a few months you have forgotten all of it. “So it’s interesting to consider the possibility that the new might be better than what you are clinging to. The unknown that you fear might just be the first step of an amazing new adventure.”
Part 1 of the series: ‘The Crossroad Chronicles’ on https://superaalifragilistic.wordpress.com/
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