Why do we struggle to make the changes we know we need to?
I stayed in a lacklustre job for a number of years. Despite my lack of interest in the role. Despite mounting tension with my boss. I wasn't happy. I knew that. But I didn't leave.
There's an old story I first heard in Amanda Palmer's 'The Art Of Asking'. A man walks by a farmer's porch and hears a dog wailing in pain. The man asks what's wrong. "He's sitting on a nail" the farmer says. "So why doesn't he just get off it?" the man asks.
"Doesn't hurt enough yet"
It's easy to understand the pain of something we're currently experiencing. Because it hurts now. We might remember how it hurt before. And can imagine how it'll hurt next time. All helping us build narrative for why we need to change.
And yet, we don't.
Not only did I struggle to leave that job, I've struggled to leave relationships despite constant fighting. And I kept not-quitting smoking even though I hated the ever-present taste of tar and constantly getting sick.
What took me some time to realise is that current pain isn't always the only problem. It's the pain of change. Or, more accurately, the perceived pain of change. Which means it isn't really pain.
The real problem is fear.
I stayed in my job because it was one of the only places I ever felt I belonged, and like my opinion really mattered. I was scared of the pain, hostility, and guilt a breakup might bring. And I continued to smoke because each pull was somewhat of a soothing antidote to the way I felt about myself inside.
I hurt enough to be miserable. But not enough to face the fear.
I didn't fully understand those things at the time. But part of me did. And it was scared. It hurt to stay. But it appeared more painful to leave. And that's the thing:
It only appeared that way.
Sometimes the fear is more pain. And sometimes it's the fear of something else we might lose. But the fear isn't the pain or loss itself. It's just fear. And, quite often, we begin to recognise that fact once we've made the first few steps we've been too afraid to take.
(Struggling with making a change, feeling stuck, or scared to take the steps you need to? Cognitive Hypnotherapy in Leighton Buzzard can help you. Get in touch to learn how)