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Why change is so difficult?

by - 23 May


Practising psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz is the author of the captivating and absorbing bestseller, The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves. 

I talked to him about the difficulty of change and how we could learn to accept change more easily.


Why is so difficult to change?
In the book one of my patients says: "I want to change but not if it means changing".

When did we lose the capacity to accept change? 
I think from birth it starts - we're born and we have to give up the womb to be in the world, then we have to give up the breast to have solid food, then we have to give up the mother and the the little home to move to school. And from each one of these things and we leave school and then should go to university or go to work and we move into our own new life. Or the big transitions - when we leave our family to get married and move into a new family and create a family, each of these things, each of these moments, they're necessary losses. We must give up the thing to have the new thing. And some people find that easier to do. Some people find that very, very, very difficult to do.
And we all know people who are stuck at each of those stages, we know people who find it hard to make some of those transitions and to go forward in life. We know people who are stuck in a job. They want to change, they have a boss who's cruel to them or they're not making enough money or that it's very unhappy they're not being supported or praised for good work that they do. And they should change but they're very frightened of that.

Do people who struggle to change have something in common?
Not seeing the future, not seeing what is possible or valuing it. Also trying to hold on to the past, the fear. One of the other things, I don't write about it in the book, but is morning. When we lose something, when someone dies, we have to grieve and grief is a process of accepting reality and some people don't want to accept the reality: Yes I'm giving up my parents, for example, to have my new family with my new wife and have my own children. They try to hold on to everything.
  How could we learn to accept change more easily?
We live in a culture, in a world of consumerism and holding on to things, and having things, not letting go of things. But there cannot be change without loss which is why change is so difficult to accept.
It's also about accepting reality. One of the realities we have to accept is our place and time. Whether you are a young person or a person in the middle of our life or an elderly person - we have to accept who we are and where we are, that we can't do the same things perhaps at one age we could in another. And I think that's very hard for some people to accept.

More on why all change involves pain here 

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