Life comes with changes, big or small, wanted or unwanted. Since the human nature seeks for certainty and security, one way to cope the best that you can with the unwanted changes is to focus on your inner wisdom. Fumble through the different layers of your identity, recreate your life, reframe the reality, adjust your expectations and experiment with living carefree.
The human brain likes certainty. And when changes come our way, we are faced with the opposite of certainty, which is uncertainty. The limbic system of the brain gets activated and we experience all sorts of emotions, positive and negative, big and small.
As a person who has experienced major and less major changes in the last 15 years, at intervals of 3 to 5 years, I thought I have a good relationship with change. I thought I tamed my mind to look at change straight in the eyes, and say, “Let’s just do it!”
Faced with yet another change, not so big this time, I was surprised to observe my panicky, anxious and sentimental reaction. I was informed ahead of time that the change will come. Yet, when the change happened, there was a dominant voice in my head asking, “Do we really have to go through this?”
Yes, unwanted changes do happen. One of the best things we could do is to go deeper in our inner world, beyond emotions and thinking, and tap into the inner wisdom that can teach us a few things about ourselves.
Layers of personal identity
Change in life makes us revisit the idea of personal identity. Who did you think you were before the change? Who are the people and what are the objects you feel a strong attachment to? What capabilities and qualities do you discover about yourself when managing change? What are the weaknesses that consume you the most? How do you believe your identity is expanding?
In the first phase of change, it can happen that we stubbornly hold onto who we thought we were before. For someone who may go through a divorce, you may think of yourself still as a wife or husband. We refuse to accept that new status is of a divorced person. In the second stage, which can be sooner if you’re lucky or otherwise, later, we may become aware that we experience groundlessness. Groundlessness is the state of being where nothing makes sense anymore, what you thought to be true is not valid anymore.
Personally, I find this groundlessness to be a magical opportunity to expand the personal identity, to grow out of whatever roles we may have in different life circumstances and look upon our identity from a larger perspective – the perspective of eternity.
Let’s play for few seconds with the idea that in 1000 years from now, someone will stumble upon your photo. What would you like that person to know about who you were?
Recreating your life
Changes bring opportunities to do things in daily life, differently. In between the moments of emotional turmoil, when we have few glimpses of peacefulness, we may want to ask ourselves how do we want to live. What higher purpose would we like to have?
We may not be able to control everything in life but we are very much able to test our limits to do the wonderful things in life. For example, now when I moved house, I have a different scenery when I look out of the window. This new image inspires me to dream about new habits, such as the habit of taking action and implementing one of my dreams.
Reframing the reality
Change does bring in some moments that we actually love. Let those moments sink into your soul. For example, when moving to another country, there may be something that you love experiencing in the new culture. And when faced with another round of groundlessness, when you believe everything in your life goes wrong, it’s beneficial to remember to be hopeful about what we haven’t lived yet.
Adjust the expectations
After managing a life change, celebrate yourself for going through whatever it was thrown at you. Make a mental map of the skills you’ve developed. Enjoy observing how the respective skills are now part of you. In hindsight, look upon sensitive moments with humour. Appreciate the people who have been by your side. However, don’t expect to be well-prepared for the next change. Just trust yourself that when the change forges into your life, you’ll be able to tap into your inner wisdom again and tackle the change, one step at a time.
Normally, we have the tendency to worry. There is no limit how much a human being could worry. Someone like myself, living in Helsinki, may worry on a sunny day that in the next hour the clouds may come and the sun will be out of sight for weeks.
Experiencing change may shed light on an important personal decision about how much we want to worry and what are the things it’s worth to worry about.
With each and every change, we have the opportunity to get closer to living freely and embracing life with courage.
I’d love to hear from you. What insights did you gain out of experiencing changes in your life?