Many people are terrified of change. Going to counseling or embarking upon any journey of self-discovery carry with them the threat of finding out something new about yourself. This might sound like a good thing but it could shake your concept of the world. You might see that many of your convictions and perceptions are false, or that your values are not really your own. You may come face to face with the fictions and rationalizations that let you justify your thoughts and actions. You may be forced to contemplate your current practice of life and whether or not it is fulfilling or promotes well-being. You might feel compelled to change long-standing patterns of behavior that feel comfortable and natural to you.
This process will make you gain a great deal but also might make you give up a great deal. Some people secretly hope that going to counseling will be like taking a magic pill. Just talk to someone about your symptoms and they will go away without having to do too much. Rely on the professionals.
Actually good counseling is an active process where the client does most of the work, and this work extends to life outside of the counseling hour. You take your raising awareness and psychological knowledge and apply it to all the facets of your life. You start to see a fuller picture of yourself that takes into account many different existential and psychological phenomena.
We are going to discuss change in an existential light to show how the shift from it being externally determined by sources outside of you like society and nature to the recognition that it can be internally influenced is one reason it is anxiety provoking. Change can bring joy, connection, and fulfillment but there is always a stage of uncertainty since there is no way to be sure of how things will turn out. Learning how to live with anxiety instead of trying to cover it up is important for a sense of well-being.
When you look back over the course of your life you will see that whether you wanted it or not change was a constant. Fearing change or attempting to stop it is pointless because we are all tied to the laws of the natural world. We are born, grow up, grow old, and die. But most of the changes in your early years came from external sources outside of your sphere of influence. Your body grew, your mind developed, you started going to school, you saw grandparents or parents grow older and die, and you found out that as an adult you would need to find a job and start a family. You just had to follow the rules, do what society expected of you, and you were whisked along on the train of life towards your supposed destiny.
Counseling can be scary for people because what often brings them to the consulting room is the unconscious conflict between who they are deep down and how they are living their lives. Deciding upon a more satisfying style of living would mean renouncing some deeply held core beliefs and values that are transmitted by our society and its authority figures. Up until now, whatever your relationship to change was, you might not have had to take too much personal responsibility over it. There is a level of security that comes from letting ourselves be guided by external sources. We move through our timelines bracketed by the demands of people and institutions so it doesn’t really seem like we are changing at all. There is not a great deal of conscious anxiety because there is no uncertainty. We do what we are told to do.
With the dawning realization that as an adult, change can come from within and that you have the power to shape your surroundings, how you perceive the world, how you act, and how you relate to others, anxiety skyrockets. This is because with increased existential freedom, responsibility also falls squarely on your shoulders. The plus of relying on external sources for validation and guidance is that you are not responsible for undesirable outcomes. When you decide to follow your internal compass and carve out a path for yourself that feels authentic, you no longer have that unconscious support system that society offers. It’s like you are a trapeze artist going out there for the first time without a net.
Recognizing you are suffering, discovering the source of your malady, and believing that well-being is possible is not enough. You also have to be ready to follow certain norms for living and change the present practice of your life. Nothing will change unless you change. Psychology lets you take a journey of self-discovery where you can come face to face with all the factors that have impeded your growth and caused you psychic suffering.
When you can come to the realization and feel it in your bones that change has always been a part of your life and always will be, changing from the inside will not be as scary. You have already been changed from the outside countless times. The difference now is that you get to use psychology to know yourself on a deeper level and conform your practice of living to who you are instead of to who others have always told you to be. This feeling of taking responsibility for how you are going to relate to life and people is empowering and ultimately leads to a greater sense of connection to the world.