The process of moving my entire website to a new platform has introduced quite a number of changes to my normal working processes. Things that had become habitual now require new levels of awareness and attention to accomplish correctly as I adjust.
Dealing with all these changes has reminded me of just how uncomfortable change can be, even when it's a positive, healthy, desired change, like healing.
In the wake of brokenness, it's not unusual to find ourselves making big changes in the way we interact with others.
Sometimes those changes arise out of the way that the brokenness has changed us, changed our world view, or changed what we value so much that we just can't go back to living as we did before.
Other times, we choose to change as we recognize that our old ways of interacting with life and with others have contributed to the situation that left us feeling so broken. We intentionally move toward healthier choices as we heal to prevent finding ourselves recreating similar pain in the future.
Either way, no matter how strongly we desire the change, it doesn't make the process of change any easier or less painful.
Changing our patterns is inevitably uncomfortable
I've written before about how the process of kintsugi relates to the discomfort of healing and how healing transforms us in ways that are often uncomfortable. Choosing to change our relationship patterns extends that discomfort in ways that are often confusing because it feels as if we are doing life wrong.
After the time of brokenness a few years ago that brought my life crashing down around my ears in so many ways several years ago, I recognized that my co-dependent habits of forming relationships was a big contributor to the situation I was facing—and that it was hardly the first time that those patterns of relating had led to painful outcomes.
I chose to make some big changes in how I related to others as I healed to avoid repeating that storyline ever again. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the changes I was making were necessary and healthy, but every time I enacted the new ways of interacting, it felt horrible.
It felt like I was being mean and aloof and selfish (even when I wasn't). People who were used to me acting in the old ways often agreed, and I lost more than one relationship due to implementing these changes, which compounded the feeling that I was doing things all wrong.
I would second- (and third- and fourth-) guess all my choices because doing what my mind believed was healthy felt so horribly wrong emotionally. This made my changes much more challenging than I would have expected given how clearly I knew the change was needed.
Perhaps you've encountered the same thing as you have chosen to make changes as part of your healing process. How do you know when that wrenching discomfort is a sign that you're acting wrongly and when it is just the normal reaction to being outside of your comfort zone as you do something new?
Tips for weathering the discomfort
In time, our new ways of interacting come to feel normal and natural, but unless we actively deal with the discomfort along the way, it is easy for that discomfort to keep us from ever reaching our goals for healthier patterns. Here are a few things that have helped me weather the discomfort so that I could make the changes I wanted as I healed.
Expect the discomfort. One of the biggest hazards that will push you back into old patterns is not expecting the discomfort to arise. When it comes as a surprise, the automatic reaction is to step back into your old comfort zone. Both you and others will resist any changes you are making—no matter how healthy those changes are—just because it's different. Know this. Expect it. Being prepared is half the battle!
Learn the subtle differences in your discomfort. There are differences in the way we experience the discomfort of being outside of our comfort zone and the discomfort of doing something that truly violates our values or goes against what our conscience tells us is right, but those differences are subtle. Explore those subtle differences and get to know them well to make it easier to distinguish between them in the moment.
Be clear about your goals for change. When you have a clear goal in mind, it is easier to objectively assess whether your actions are meeting that healthy goal or whether you might have veered into some other form of unhealthy behavior. This can be very helpful when you are second-guessing yourself by reassuring you that you are on the right path.
Know your motivation for change. In the midst of the inevitable discomfort, being very clear about why you are making this change can strengthen your resolve to push through the discomfort to a new normal. Find a motto, a symbol, or some other reminder to keep in front of you on the days when you need that motivational boost.
Get a healthy outside opinion. Having one or more people you can turn to for an outside opinion when you're feeling too uncomfortable to tell whether you're on the right path can be a huge help. This might be a trusted friend or it might be a therapist, coach, or other professional who can see the situation more clearly from the outside than you can in the middle of the discomfort.
Choose your battles. When you are already in the midst of healing, it can be challenging to have enough energy to also make big changes at the same time. Sometimes allowing old patterns to stand in a given situation is good self-care when your energy is needed for other things. Know which issues you are unwilling to compromise on during this time and which ones can give way, when necessary.
Offer yourself unlimited grace and forgiveness. Making big changes in your patterns of interaction is hard. Doing so while you are also healing from wounds that have left you feeling broken is even harder. Mistakes are inevitable as you re-create yourself. Drench your life with unlimited grace and forgiveness during the process. You are doing your best, and that's all any of us can do.
Questions to ponder
How have you weathered times of changing your relationship patterns as you have healed? What worked best for you in supporting yourself in making these changes?
What pitfalls did you encounter that you can learn from to be better prepared next time?
How might you approach this differently in the future to make these kinds of changes easier?
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