Doesn’t it feel like we are all sitting in a sea of uncertainty? The world is once again in the midst of major changes and that can be frightening. After all, we don’t know how this is going to turn out, do we? We human beings fear change, mostly because change does not come with a guarantee of a happy ending. We have only the hope that things will be better than they were before.
We have so many things in flux right now. Our new president has promised to make big changes and those decisions are rocking not just the United States but the globe. The climate is changing, whether or not it is accelerated by human beings, science assures us that weather patterns are different and the earth is not the same as it was before. Technology changes how we interact with one another. Some jobs no longer exist, while new ones are created. Changes in health care, freezes in federal hiring and the fact that we are older than we were yesterday bring a feeling of dread. How do we find a place of peace in this ever-shifting landscape?
As these big changes loom, I feel vulnerable. Most of us do.
Brene Brown, a noted author and research sociologist, has studied how we avoid being vulnerable. We all use four main techniques to help us cope with the fear of being vulnerable:
- We numb it with alcohol, sugar, caffeine or adrenaline rushes.
- We make the things we wish were an absolute truth (even when they are not) and state them as fact. We want others to agree with those ideas as truth, so that we can be right. I particularly see this in politics, religion and sports teams, but this happens in many areas of our lives.
- We try to be perfect, and convince others that we have perfect lives. We hide our mistakes and imperfections from the world.
- We pretend that what is happening doesn’t matter to us, that it is not our problem.
Yet each of these coping mechanisms comes with a high price. Numbing the bad feelings numbs the good ones of joy and delight. When we demand that others agree with us, we alienate those whose opinion we could value and become more and more close-minded as we insist on our view. Being perfect exhausts everyone, including the ones doing their best to appear “normal”. And pretending the change isn’t happening only prolongs the agony. For change is inevitable.
So we all are living in this sea of uncertainty. We feel vulnerable and scared, even though some of the changes are what we had been hoping for. It feels like a struggle to find safety while being tossed about in my little kayak on the ocean.
So now what? I do not have any answers.
Trying to follow my own advice, I meditate, exercise, get enough sleep, reach out to loved ones and remember the good things I have in my life.
Still I have moments (days) of retreating into myself and wishing things would just stay the same.
These are turbulent times. Then that little voice inside me says, “Yes. As usual.”
“Nothing is forever except change.” – Buddha