When You Change…

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ E. E. Cummings

beachI recently went to the beach with my family. We returned to an island we hadn’t visited in many years. Being back there – a place of my childhood summers – granted me that lovely nostalgic feeling of returning to a place that I love and know well.

I realized that the beach, the homes, and the striking scenery of that place were very much the same. It kept its serene, subtle beauty. Barefoot strolls on the brown sand gave me the same comforting feeling I knew many years ago, and the refreshing touch of the calm ocean tide against my ankles presented me with the similar experience of feeling renewed by cool, salty water.  Looking out at the expanse of the large, far-reaching ocean in front of me again left me with the similar awe-inspired realization of how small I am in this big world.

However, as much as this beautiful beach seemed unaffected by time, I know that the same cannot be said about me. I have changed-I am no longer fifteen and wondering what I want to be “when I grow up.” And I expect that ten years from now, I will look back and say something similar about who I am today…

Perhaps it is for this very reason that so many of us are drawn to the beach, the mountains, and other naturally beautiful and seemingly unchanging scenic sanctuaries. As humans, we cling to those places and things that are constant in our lives. The ups and downs, twists and turns that life presents us with can be wearing – even the ones we know are healthy and important.

Yes, change is often hard.

Most new clients pursue therapy desiring, expecting, and needing positive change in their lives.  Discovering the beauty of it, of course, looks different for each person – perhaps it includes learning a better way of communicating with one’s spouse, acquiring new strategies for coping with the stress of balancing work & home, or developing acceptance of one’s personality and identity.  Each individual and situation is unique, and making changes can require varying amounts of intentionality and patience. Furthermore, each individual’s personal change can also mean incurring varying responses from family & friends.

Yep, sometimes your friends will not like it when you change.

And why is this the case? Probably for the same reason that we return to the same beach, fear ordering something different on the menu at our favorite restaurant, and tear-up when we finish the last page of an amazing book with characters we adore: change in those we love can unexpectedly create feelings of confusion, sadness, and possibly even loss. And this can be true even with knowledge that the change is helpful, positive, and good. Those precious loved ones in your life must get accustomed to your changes just as you are beginning to spread your wings and adjust to a different outlook and a new way of life.

Why else?

Some friends may not like it when you change because it challenges them to reflect on their own thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Possibly, it forces them to look at their own ‘elephants‘ they’ve kept hidden.

Going back to the quote by E.E. Cummings above the picture, courage is an essential ingredient when following the path of growth.  It often requires exposing oneself to new territory and being vulnerable to the reactions of others. Yet, without it, change is impossible.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~ Frederick Douglas

So, what does change mean to you and how do you experience the tension in managing the common stretch marks that often accompany it?

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Learn more about Lydia Minear, MA, LAPC’s Counseling practice @ East-West Psychotherapy Associates here.

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