It is never easy to change—even when we know it is in our best interests. Old ways are deeply learned behaviors that have become embedded in the very fiber of our beings. It is incredibly hard to let go of even just a small piece of closely held self-concept. I know you all know this. I sure do. I think it’s tied to our human survival instincts which tell us the unknown is dangerous; the tried and true is safe. So whenever we endeavor to let the old go, our built-in wiring for survival fights us. I think we are hard wired to stay in what we know.
A wise friend once told me when I was beating myself up for struggling in a time of growth that the work I was doing was incredibly hard, that it was evolutionary, and if I could move forward by even just a millimeter it was a stunning achievement. And why do we do that–what I did to myself–when we’re facing transitions, small ones, big ones, why is it that we are often so fierce with ourselves when what we really need is to be kind? Maybe the battering is just another way we’ve devised to stay stuck. I don’t know.
Betty arrived at class today on the heels of a revelation. She had decided she is stubborn. This conclusion was reached because of a photo-taking assignment I’d given her. She was to set aside time, every week, to go shoot photos for painting scrap. It’s been an ongoing assignment but she hasn’t been coming up with much. She wasn’t out at the right time of day to get good light. She didn’t find subjects that interested her. Her camera was difficult—there were complications with the digital and when she switched to film the local processing place suspended their one-hour service…
This morning Betty realized she’d been struggling to gather photos because it might advance her art. There. She has resisted pursuing her art for the better part of 77 years now and THAT has become her self-concept. If she actually seriously did make art, who would she be then? Taking photos became her line in the sand. If she crossed that line the world as she knew it would end.
We talked about it and I suggested she consider a different choice of words. She wasn’t stubborn. She was scared. Could she have compassion for the spot she found herself in, face her fears and go take some pictures? She can and she will.
Neither of us thinks the issue is done and complete—solidly learned. I believe our lessons must be practiced and taken in over time—the proverbial two steps forward, one step back. But it is a beginning. Betty figured something out today she didn’t know yesterday. And being more conscious more of the time is how we can affect change, even if it is only a millimeter at a time.