Sep 172013

Last week I was talking about the need to embrace external change. Today I want to address the need to foster change on the inside too.

As AL Kennedy indicates in the episode of Radio 4’s A Point of View I quoted last time, one reason people are resistant to changes taking place around them is that they result in changes to their own identity. If I am accustomed to having status, money and a spouse, the removal of one or more of those will cause me huge emotional upheaval, not just in coming to terms with the new situation but also in recalibrating my sense of who I am.

As Ms Kennedy also points out, during times of uncertainty people often become more superstitious, turning to fortune tellers and tarot readers for guidance. Gambling is another area where people seek solace from life’s turmoil. In both cases, magical thinking becomes a refuge from reality and provides a spurious impression of being able to engineer the future we want. The problem with putting one’s faith in ‘psychics’ and tipsters is that it involves giving away the power (and responsibility) we have to shape our own destiny.

Instead of trying to control the world by resisting change or trying to steal a march on Fate in some mystical manner, we need to focus our energy on shoring up our own psyche and building our resilience and confidence. If I have a strong sense of who I am, rooted in me and not in my external circumstances, I will be less shaken by a change in those circumstances. This is not to say I won’t still be terribly sad or angry, but I won’t have my Self thrown into question.

If we get too hung up on labels and pigeon holes, we can end up stifling growth, in ourselves and others. It’s easy to go along with the stereotypes written by parents and friends – A is the clever one, B is the sporty one, C is the attractive one, and so on – but this is just another example of people wanting to understand the world around them and know what to expect from it. ‘Positive’ labels such as the ones I’ve mentioned are better than negative ones, of course, but they come with a lot of pressure to perform and, less obviously, they can be restrictive in not allowing the people to experiment in other fields. Within groups and families, those without the reputation for achievement in a given area can feel there’s no point in even trying. Good at something or bad at it, our destiny is already charted if we accept these labels.

Once we realise the power we have to change ourselves and be who we want to be, it becomes much easier to accept external change. The key to peace and happiness is knowing that we will be all right whatever comes our way. We can’t control what life throws at us but we can control how we handle it.

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