by Joel Delaney.
We all know we are living in changing and unknown times. I wanted to write this article to
hopefully help you frame change in a way that serves you. I’ve been supporting people for
over 10 years with chronic, complex and persistent condition. I write this article not as an
expert in change theory but as someone who has observed, listened to and supported
hundreds of people through a process of change. I believe that how we frame change can
have a profound influence on the outcome for us. I would like you to be empowered
through change as well as by transition from fear-based assessment (moving away from a
problem) to an empowered view point of “moving towards what you want”.
From the moment we are born we are in a constant process of change. We are ageing, we
are learning and we are having new experiences. Change is the only constant in life. How we
relate to it can make for either a more or a less comfortable process.
Usually when we start a process of change we are moving away from something, i.e. pain,
tiredness, sadness, fear, overwhelm etc. We don’t want to feel pain so we seek out options
to help us not have pain. We change our behaviour, feelings and beliefs to help us cope. Or
we try new treatments to help pain go away.
At some point if we continue getting positive treatment we will get to a point we can no
longer use pain as our guide. We have moved far enough away from pain that it is no longer
a useful gauge. When we are in pain we try and behave “small” to minimise the pain
sensation. For example when don’t move our shoulder so much or we put our weight on the
other leg so it doesn’t hurt or we don’t talk about our feelings to avoid emotional pain. As
we dig more deeply we eventually get to a moment where our main motivation isn’t to
move away from suffering and “small” behaviour, but toward an outcome we want.
This change in focus can be a very confusing time. Previously, your whole structure for change has been based on what you don’t want. For some people you’ll be asking yourself
for the first time what does my health, wellness and/or happiness look like. What am I
moving towards? This might be, “now that I’m pain free, how to I get more movement and
energy so I can play with the kids again”, “now I don’t have to focus on pain what else do I
want for my health” or “what does the best version of me look like”.
This moment in time is explained by something called Chaos theory. It can make sense of
why sometimes things seem to get worse before they get better. It can make sense as to
why things stop working that have worked before and it can help us understand why things
can get really uncomfortable before they get better.
The basic Chaos theory states that when a system, (which can be related to a multitude of
different systems) – a person, a financial market, the earth – has an accumulation of energy
it gets to a point where it can become too much for that system to cope with. It then has 3
options to deal with this.
1. You develop techniques to wash away the accumulation of energy. For humans this
could be drinking alcohol, detaching through T.V, excessive exercise, denial. This means the reason for the accumulation of energy is never addressed as the system doesn’t quite reach 10/10 initially.
2. Reordering of the system. The re ordering of the system can be varied but what it
means is that a new version of the system is created so it can cope with the excess
energy. This is call evolution, a light bulb moment, a new understanding of a
problem or an awakening. This idea doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It can happen
to different parts of us at different times. For example, stress could be over
whelming so we reorder our values to what is important in our lives so we have
more opportunity to deal with problems.
3. The system stops existing all together. For example, this could be a stress-related
heart attack. The system cannot adapt to the excess energy so it stops functioning.
Chaos leads to change and we have the choice to find new ways to evolve or new ways to
wash. The challenge that people find with washing is that because the original problem was
never solved you need to do more and more washing to cope with the accumulation This is
because as you develop new strategies to wash they create imbalances creating their own
build-up of energy that also needs to be washed. If we continue to use the pain example: as
your shoulder gets sore, first you start moving it less, now because you’re moving it less you
need to adjust your posture at your desk to be able to type. This gives you back ache so you
start walking differently to move away from that pain. Then your back just goes. At some
point washing becomes too much and the system demands a change.
This behaviour of moving away from pain or suffering, may appear to serve us initially but
usually comes with limitations. When we are trying to create an outcome we want rather
than avoid an outcome we don’t want, a new behaviour needs to be created. What has
been tried in the past may not be the best option if you want a different outcome in the
People can often use the catch phrase “what you resist persists”, or “resistance is the key to
suffering”. This is because we haven’t yet taken the opportunity to reorder the system to
cope with the new volume of energy and have been practising washing in the hope we can
maintain normality. For example, if you have a child and have an internal system for looking
after that child and then you have two more children and keep trying to behave like you
only have one child, chances are you’ll have problems. If you accept the fact you have three
children and adapt your system accordingly you’ll get a different outcome.
As we jump from the old version of ourselves to the new version it can be scary, mainly
because we don’t know what the new version looks like. The reason we don’t know what it
looks like is because we haven’t been that version of ourselves before. When you are
moving away from something you can always assess how well you are doing by the change
in your level of suffering. For example, I feel less pain therefore I’m doing well. But what if
you’re trying to create something you’ve not really experienced before such as:
contentment; sense of purpose; or unconditional love of self. What does that even mean
and how do you even know you’re on the right track? Fear would say don’t do it, don’t
make the jump there are too many risks. But if you want to achieve something new,
sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and trust you have the ability to land somewhere
that ultimately serves you better.
How do you know you are going to choose something that serves you in the face of the
unknown? This can be a very challenging thing and it relates to feeling and observation.
Firstly, you’ll need to observe and then you’ll need to feel. Feelings connect us to our
subconscious, body’s wisdom or spirit. For example you hear business people talking about
this when they have started something new, “I had a gut feeling……”, “It just felt right……..”.
People generally act on feelings and then justify with thoughts. Most people if they really
look at themselves will realise they are already doing this. They behave based on beliefs that
are associated with feelings and then justify it with thoughts.
In a time where there is a lot of noise in your environment it can be a good time to stop,
really think about what you want in life and then use your feelings to get you there. If you
tap into your feelings then you can utilise something you are already doing into a pattern
that better serves you. Differentiate between feelings of what you don’t want and what you
do want. What helps you feel more loved? Is it: connection; sense of purpose; calmness;
gratitude; or empowerment? Listening to your feelings can be a superpower in times of
change, whatever that might be for you.
If you think this is too difficult, there is also a lot of benefit to observing or feeling your
body. How do I breathe? How does that feel? How does my digestion feel when I eat well
compared to when I eat poorly? How do I feel when I sleep well? How does my body’s
function affect my feelings toward my environment? Observation is the start to any change.
When you observe you have choice. Initially in might be small choices, but small choices
lead to big changes and the only difference is how we frame the choice and what outcome
we are hoping to get.
I wish you all the best in navigating your own change. With all change comes great
opportunity, I hope you can see what is there for you.