Earlier this week as I described my approach to being in the pandemic-induced vortex of lockdown number six, I was told by a client that I’m not normal. This fellow, also an experienced psychologist said that I was an outlier, different.
I’ve been thinking about his words for several days now and have come to conclusion that he might be right. And that it’s not a bad thing.
You see, I’ve decided in the middle of a tumultuous global pandemic, just when we are all being taxed emotionally and psychologically beyond compare, to embrace the moment and do what I believe for many people is counter intuitive. Instead of trying to reduce the disequilibrium and discomfort I am feeling, I am embracing it, even harnessing it, to help me change.
The thing is, I have chosen to do some deep development work on myself over the last few months. I’ve engaged a wise coach cum therapist to help me investigate stuff at the core of me, involving beliefs and protective mechanisms that were created during childhood and reinforced by life. Don't get me wrong, these beliefs and ways of reacting to the world have been helpful in my life. They’re behind my self-sufficiency, competence and agency. But they are also behind my separateness from others, and often thwart my deeply felt desire for intimacy and closeness.
You probably have your own “stuff” that holds you back. Maybe it's a control thing, where you try to manage and fix everything, even the stuff you can’t control. So, you get stressed, frustrated, angry even. You just don't know how to let go, do nothing, and relax. Or perhaps it’s a need to know and predict everything. Where having all the answers has been your super strength, the source of your success. But now, when you can’t possibly know and predict everything in the middle of a global pandemic, you struggle to hang out with the messiness and chaos of not knowing.
So, perhaps like many of you, I want to grow beyond my limiting patterns. But it's a real struggle to overcome years of deeply ingrained thinking and acting. That's why I’m using this moment to do the work.
You see, I am a big believer that we often need to experience tension, stress and disequilibrium if we are to change. If we are too comfortable and happy with the status quo, then we have no reason to change. The same patterns of thinking and behaving will just keep showing up.
But if you challenge our normal way of being by placing us for long enough in circumstances for which our normal responses aren’t working, then we have to adapt. If we feel enough “heat” for long enough, then we must change.
As one of my other clients said to me in a coaching session, “the thing about the routine of lockdown is that you just can’t escape the parts of you that you don't like. There’s nothing to distract you, no escape from seeing yourself as you truly are. You have to change.”
Although changing our deepest beliefs and habits of thinking can be like trying to reshape wrought iron. If you try and do it whilst the metal is at room temperature, it takes a huge amount force to bend it. But apply enough heat for long enough, then the metal becomes soft and malleable, allowing it to be reshaped.
Our deepest, oldest and strongest protective beliefs and behaviours are just like that iron. They can be rigid, inflexible and unyielding. They've been our armour that has protected us in life. But they can also weigh us down and cause us to drown when our circumstances and desires call for something different.
So, we have to experience enough heat, tension and disequilibrium to reshape them to something more helpful. Even though it can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful to be forced to hold them and examine them, it's a necessary part of the experience.
Of course, I’ve been tempted once or twice by that voice in my head which has said “Let it go. It’s too hard in the middle of a pandemic.”. Fortunately, another part of me responds with “Sure it’s hard, but when else are you going to experience these conditions? If you can’t change now, when?”.
So yeah, maybe I am an outlier. Maybe people will think that I am strange for trying to use the discomfort of the present moment to grow, change and adapt. But I sure like the progress that I’m making, and the person I am becoming.
I hope that as many people as possible can also harvest the moment, the tension and disequilibrium to become who they wish to become. Don’t let it go to waste.