Change Happens!

Change happens - what to do when people around you don’t like the change you are making

Change Happens!

I know that this is no surprise to most of us.  I say most of us because it seems that resisting change is quite rampant in our culture.  So many arguments on the news and so many social complaints are over changes that are occurring, suggested, or wanted. 

In the last few weeks I have talked with a number of people about struggles that occur with making changes.  Struggles with change can make some sense when we think about how routine and habit driven much of our lives are.

 When we do the same thing in the same way we go unconscious with it.  While I like to think that I’m completely safe I do acknowledge that sometimes I don’t remember driving to my office some days. My car practically drives itself as I’m thinking about my day.  That’s not really true though as I’m doing my habitual actions for driving and safety and with habits part of our awareness may ride in the back seat.   

One particular struggle with change that has come up frequently in my conversations with clients is what to do when people around you don’t like the change you are making. In fact they may react quite strongly to what is happening.  Harriet Lerner, in her book Dance with Anger, calls this the “change back” response.

Based in fear of not knowing what is going to happen and fear of changes they will need to make to maintain a relationship with you, others can put up anything ranging from mild protests to a really big sink to harsh and attacking behaviors.  The hoped for result is to get you to change back. I find that a good amount of these actions are, at least in part, not done with much awareness if any awareness at all.  Fear can be so much in charge of actions that we don’t even notice it. 

When people face these reactions, and don’t know that they are a response to any type of change process,  they often think they should back down, that they are causing too much trouble, that what they want for themselves isn’t worth the reaction they are getting.  I find this often has more to do with difficulty being with one’s own or another’s strong emotional reaction, which is an important emotional intelligence skill to develop.  With a commitment to emotional well-being and practice with emotional responses, relationships thrive.  (A more detailed blog about this very important skill is coming in the near future.) 

Changing of the seasons is a natural time to consider what our own relationship is to change. 

  • Are you at ease with the ongoing changing nature of life?
  • When something unexpected occurs do you resist it or meet it with curiosity and acceptance?
  • Do you allow yourself to flow with everyday changes navigating with grace?

Pay attention to how you do change, accept change, embrace change (or not).  When faced with something changing, someone reacting to changes you are making, or your own reactions to changes, put your attention on your breath, notice where it is, take time to allow your breath to smooth out into deep inhales, and full exhales.  Move around a bit to allow breath and movement to help you through what is changing.  It will give you a new and probably needed perspective on things.

With breath and an open heart, I fully support you. 


About the author

Suzanne Kilkus

Suzanne Kilkus is a Soto Zen meditation practitioner and teacher and has practiced as a therapist and counselor for over three decades. She is dedicated to assisting people in expanding their capacity for giving and receiving love, and for recognizing and expressing their basic goodness in everyday life. Her path to live with wholehearted compassion and care is an invitation to everyone. She is a teacher with Open Door Zen Community in Madison, WI.