Change has always been resisted. From the early days of mankind. We have held on for dear life to everything we have worked so hard for.
What to Expect:
- Motto: Maintain ‘stability’
- Negative bias: The Cause for Resistance
- Loss Aversion: Justification of Stagnation
- Elevate: Use the Power of Words
- Consciously Transform your Experience
- Putting it together: What’s it all about?
We toiled and struggled -- day in and day out for this life we currently live. And we do everything in our power to hold on to it.
Change has shoved us down, attempted to suffocate us and drown our voices out. Yet we fight back; we resist and prevent the walls from caving in. We are not familiar with change. We shy away from change. For as long as we can help it. “Over my dead body!”
Motto: Maintain ‘stability’
In being advised by the ill-informed to resist external ‘change’, our minds have taken on the relationship that change is not normal. Instead, we are led to believe by society that stability is your best friend -- stability in your job, relationships, your daily routine, and your weeks and months.
When change comes close, we tense up, as if to avoid movement of the knife that stabs us in the leg. Every cough, every sneeze; every tear, and every laugh creates shooting pain. We remove reasons for any of these emotions to arise. We seek ways to avoid the pain. Our focus is on the pursuit of numbing pain.
We have resigned from life over years of avoiding pain. We have crippled ourselves as we sat, waiting, in the rocking chair on the front porch just to prevent feeling the knife that stabs us for many years. This has been our collective experience with change -- negative. We have only known that misery comes to those who have undergone change!
You only see the pain another experiences through periods of change. Then they disappear. You rarely hear from them again. The last time you heard from them their life was filled with sorrow. Where are they now, you rarely wonder. All examples of change have been negative. So we run away from it.
“What you resist not only persists, but it grows in size.”
-- C.G. Jung
Negative bias: The Cause for Resistance
After witnessing so many of my friends and peers struggle with change, I have a proposal. Let’s discontinue the use of ‘Change’ to describe the situation. Here’s why:
The word ‘Change’ is neutral. It can either indicate a positive or negative experience, where the result of change puts us in a better or worse position as before the change occurred.
But human brains have a “natural” inclination towards negative bias -- your brain is wired to display greater sensitivity to negative news.
In this study, John Cacioppo, Ph.D. proved that a negative bias exists. People, whose cerebral cortex electrical activity were recorded, were shown pictures known to arouse positive feelings, neutral and negative feelings. He demonstrated that the brain reacts more strongly to stimuli that is negative due to the greater surge in the magnitude of information taking place.
So the human brain, when given the option, naturally hones in on the negative aspects of the process and associates the process with destruction (only) when ‘Change’ is used to describe it.
“The brain acts like Velcro for negative experiences but teflon for positive ones.”
-- Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
Loss Aversion: Justification of Stagnation
Further, change focuses on all that we have to give up -- our current life -- which is so rosy (sarcasm!) and certain (so true!).
A study by Daniel Kahneman illustrated that humans don’t like to lose what they’ve gained and is termed loss aversion. Participants were given mugs, chocolate or nothing. Then they were asked to make a choice between two options - they could keep their item or exchange it for another object (in the case where you received nothing, you can choose one of the items). Roughly 50% of the participants who started with no items chose mugs, but 86% of those given mugs chose to stick with their items.
We can’t imagine this scenario. “My current life is all that I have worked for and now I have to ‘Change’?” That’s not fair!
By emphasizing what we have to give up, ‘Change’ also doesn't do justice to the process - the journey on the path towards joy and contentment.
The meaning we perceive only considers everything we have to give up, those aspects that have to be different from its current state but not what is there to be gained.
This is a major psychological lesson: Change inherently has a negative connotation and we consider all that we have to give up in the process. Essentially, it doesn’t lend justice to describe the transformational process.
So how do we remove these psychological biases?
Elevate: Use the Power of Words
From Abraham Lincoln’s The Gettysburg Address during the American Civil War to Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India” during India’s independence struggle to Martin Luther King, Jr's “I Have a Dream” Speech to abandon racial hatred, words have formed the basis of these speeches and many more to uplift our emotions after troubled times, to enlist us in their causes, and to shape the course of destiny.
Similar to the influence that the words from a great orator have over people, we have the power to use words that move us emotionally and empower and strengthen our spirit to act.
But most people are not aware of it.
Concepts that don't have words associated with it, don't make it into everyday experience! For example, some Native American languages have no word for ‘lie!’ Or the Tasaday tribe in the Philippines has no words for ‘dislike,’ ‘hate,’ or ‘war!’
Basically, without words we would have no method of representing to us what our experience of life is. In other words, we use words to label our experiences and the way we label our experience immediately changes the sensations produced in our nervous system. We have the power to dial down the intensity of the negative experience by using words like ‘frustrated’ or ‘angry’ instead of ‘depressed.’
By using empowering language, we have the power to change perspectives, to remove blocks and to inspire us to keep moving.
We can safely replace ‘change’ with the empowering word: ‘ELEVATE.’
“Simply by changing your habitual vocabulary -- the words you consistently use to describe the emotions of your life -- you can instantaneously change how you think, how you feel, and how you live.”
-- Tony Robbins
Consciously Transform your Experience
Once you begin to consciously and consistently use a word, it drastically affects what you consider, how you think and what you think about.
Elevate focuses on an improved version of your current self. There’s no room for negative bias to bully the mind into resistance and submission.
Elevate focuses on the constructiveness of the process, not the destruction like ‘change’ does.
Elevate gives us a vision of a better future. This is true because in all cases of change elevation, the outcome leads to an increase in peace, serenity, and calm.
Using elevate empowers us to allow the process to flow through us and to begin walking the path.
Elevate allows us to focus on the beauty of the process. We elevate the process over the fear that prevents change; this ultimately empowers our minds and provides the courage to moving forward.
This is not to take away from the fact that the process to get to the other side can be rough and hardships have to be overcome.
But using ‘elevate’ gives our minds the hope, the lift and the courage to push through and emerge on the other side, victorious.
Putting it together: What’s it all about?
Now is your chance to drastically improve your life. Take control.
Notice how you avoid ‘change’ in all aspects of your life. Be aware of your reaction to ‘change.’ What happened when you found out that you were let go? What happened when your lover broke up with you? What happened when you found that the words you use were modifying your emotions?
Did fear creep up within? Was there resistance? Did fearful thoughts arise in your mind?
This is expected. Change is a label that limits your experience and makes it one-dimensional. We have to be careful of accepting other people’s labels and their fear for change. Using change, we intensify the psychological state surrounding the word in our minds. We give it power over us.
Elevate your life. This points to an improvement, a change that is bound to make us happier, joyful and increase our likeness for the process.
Remember, let’s support each other in elevating the conditions of our lives!
What fears come up for you when change is on the horizon?