When you’ve tried to create significant change in your life, such as weight loss, did you ever think about what you were actually invoking? Or did you just say “I’m going to change. Today’s the day.” and then expect it to happen? My guess is it was the latter. Until you realize what’s going on under the surface, change will remain elusive to you. This article is the first in a series that maps out how change happens.
Who will I be if I let go of who I think I am?
Who we THINK we are is a collection of perceived roles, possessions and circumstances. At a deeper level, you sense there’s much more to you than this but heading down that path of personal discovery is a scary prospect — I mean after all, who will you BE without all of this? That’s a huge unknown and it’s the biggest barrier to change.
Your perceived self is Ego. Your deeper self is Soul. And if you think about it, Ego has been running the show for a long time. Ego has to subside for Soul to emerge, but anything that threatens Ego’s control triggers anxiety, and we’re all wired to avoid anxiety. Hmm, a bit of a catch-22.
If we take a closer look at what really constitutes anxiety, there’s pain and then there’s discomfort, each generating different degrees of anxiety. The times we feel true pain in our lives are rare thankfully, but discomfort is a common occurrence. How can you tell the difference? When you’re in pain, the last thing you can fathom is food. When you’re experiencing discomfort, however, you may have insatiable urges to eat.
Discomfort is one of the hallmarks of change. It’s the very thing that stimulates innovation — the kind of fresh, creative thought that, when applied, moves you out of the status quo. Ego is all about protecting the status quo. It interprets all discomfort as pain and triggers huge anxiety and drama to make you turn back. Why? Because on the other side of discomfort, some aspect of Soul is waiting for you to discover it and that equates to certain death for some aspect of Ego.
Developing your “muscle” for discomfort then is key to moving forward and creating change. You may be surprised just how weak this muscle is at first, especially if you’ve spent a lifetime succumbing to your drug of choice. But just as with physical muscles, your discomfort muscle strengthens with use.
The drama doesn’t end there though. Have you ever felt you’re right on the verge of change but can’t seem to break through? Your struggle may be largely internal but if you were to pull out that part of you and witness it, it would be like watching a two-year-old rolling around on the floor having a full-on temper tantrum, with all the flourish and energy that entails.
It gets even better. Now imagine that two-year-old at the height of its tantrum, having a complete emotional meltdown, culminating in a slumped, lackluster posture and a face-framing pout. You have just witnessed Ego’s resistance to breakthroughs. If you haven’t experienced this before, it can be quite unsettling. But it indicates the path you’re on is finally taking you towards real change.
Which means you’ll also reach an unbearable choice point on whether to quit or continue. If you quit, Ego wins. Not only that, it’s fortified. It may take you a long time to collect enough strength again to return to this point. If you continue, Soul shines through. What’s always fascinating about choosing to continue is, when you look back over your shoulder, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
You’ll go through this drama many times in the course of creating change. You’ll find the tantrums and meltdowns become more like hiccups — annoying but not debilitating. Learning how to let Ego die a little each day helps Soul come to light. Give yourself permission to grieve Ego — I mean, after all, it got you this far. You’ll find deep grieving brings you peace. And that question of who you’ll BE? Irrepressible and irresistible!