Updated: Mar 18, 2022
Here is a saying we have often heard, ‘There is nothing constant except change’. Whether we like change or not, whether we have developed inner skills to deal with change or not, change knocks at our doors far more often than many of us might desire. Some of these changes we are happy about, and welcome, and others are, to say the least, inconvenient, if not traumatic. Change, whether it is small or big, is the doorway to transition and transformation.
S. Quick, R.J. Fetsch and M. Rupured of Colarado State University explain the difference between change and transition very aptly. “Change is situational; transition is psychological. It’s not the events outside us that make the transition; it’s the inner-reorientation and meaning-the redefinition we make to incorporate those changes.” And in these words lie the answer that explains why we often find change so difficult to handle.
A small change in an external situation can create a huge change in the energy equation. The entry or exit of even one person, or one significant object in our close environment can destabilise us because we are forced to redefine ourselves and our behaviours in response to that change. So, in fact, it is not the change in the situation that lies at the root of the problem, but the challenge of ‘redefinition’.
This ‘inner reorientation’ and ‘redefinition’ forces us to address our deep-set belief systems. Our belief systems comprise of our values, principles, and our conditioning that determine how we interpret our everyday reality, and how we understand and make sense of the world around us. When there is an external change, the familiar belief system that we were functioning with, on auto-pilot, is no longer effective, and we have to challenge ourselves to bring about appropriate changes in the belief system so that we can now understand this new set of energy equations, and respond to them. The more firmly we are rooted in the rigidity of the old, the more difficult it is for us to make the transitions that are necessary. This struggle forces our attention to the current NOW, by moving away from past definitions. The shift in our focus leads to inner transformation.
Where there is mindfulness, there is acceptance of change and transition. Transition takes us through an emotional and psychological process. This is often accompanied by a roller-coaster of upheaval. I remember once noticing this at a recreational park. I saw the man responsible for the roller coaster flick a not-particularly large lever. This small action resulted in the roller-coaster moving, and gaining speed. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is so representative of life. The trigger is, in fact, such a small switch; the resultant reaction is such a huge emotional and psychological roller coaster ride!’ Inner upheaval is the result of the transition that brings us into the present even as the past seems so comfortable and familiar. When we have gone through the ride (whether screaming in fright or in delight), and land onto stable ground again, this new state is the transformation. Transformation is a new state of BEING, and can come only when the transition is done. How long that transition takes to be completed depends upon how strong our resistance to it is. And, of course, the strength of our resistance depends upon the rigidity of our belief systems.
Wait a bit here, don’t read further. Assimilate this well.
Change in the external situation > disruption in the energy equation > inner reorientation > redefinition of core belief systems > resistance to redefinition > emotional and psychological agitation > transition phase > acceptance and adaptability > long-lasting transformation
At this point, you might like to throw your mind back to a situation involving change, in order to become aware of where in this chain you struggled the most. For a large number, the struggle seems to be quite strong at the stage of redefinition because of the resistance to addressing the rigidly held core beliefs. This resistance is not due to obduracy or pig-headedness.
Core beliefs are strong inner statements that define who we are, what we think of ourselves, how we view our relationship with the world, and how we relate to, and with, others. Naturally, there would be resistance to either rewriting or discarding these deeply anchored statements. I remember working upon this process with a client who wailed, ‘Ell, this is who I am. You are asking me to stop being who I am!’ No, I wasn’t, but I understood what she meant. Some changes force us to redefine ourselves so radically that we have to stop ourselves from continuing a state of being that we were so comfortable in. Core beliefs have constructed our attitudes, our behaviours, our sense of right and wrong, our thoughts; how can these be easy to change?
No, they can’t; however, what can help you to take that most vital first step is reading those two words again --- core beliefs. The word beliefs points us in the right direction. They are only beliefs; they are not facts set in stone. Beliefs, by their very nature, can be changed, and, in fact, do change – often without our conscious awareness.
Once again, let us pause here. Let yourself remember a belief that you might have had a decade ago, but which is not present today. Did it change automatically as you transformed, or did it change because you initiated actions to change something that you did not see as valid any longer? I’m sure you can think of examples that would be true in both these instances.
Now that you have realised that beliefs can and do change, with or without your endeavour, you are ready to better evaluate your core beliefs. Most core beliefs are established in childhood when we do not have the bandwidth of consciousness, awareness and knowledge to evaluate the situations we encounter. As children, we reacted emotionally and psychologically because our intelligent faculties were only very partially developed. With each passing year, these faculties get stronger within us, and that is why we begin to react less and respond more.
Let us understand these with an example, and for this I am drawing upon the real-life experiences and beliefs of a client who shall remain unnamed. As a young girl belonging to a lower middle-class family of eight, all living in a small tenement, XXX received very little emotional attention and nurturance from her mother who was struggling to make ends meet, and look after two old and ailing in-laws, while her husband worked at more than one job that took him away from home for long months. Within the lonely young girl grew a bitterness and resentment, and the core belief that she is not important, worthy or deserving of love and attention. Today, she is a self-made, successful, media person, who understands, and appreciates, the past struggles of her parents, even as the inner child continues to define itself as unworthy and undeserving, and continues to rage through familial relationships with those whom she deeply loves. She is in the transition phase, moving one small step at a time to understand, and discard or rewrite the self-perpetuating beliefs that were established in her childhood, towards the transformation that she seeks.
She has come to an understanding and a recognition that the energy emitted by the core beliefs are magnets that attract to her situations that support the beliefs, making them even stronger, holding her in self-destructive patterns and behaviours.
Core beliefs were established when we were children attempting to make sense of the world around us. As adults, we are able to recognise that in many situations we were unable to grasp the actual reality, and our innocent and emotion-based perceptions were far from the truth of the situations. Unfortunately, these perceptions gave rise to core beliefs. And these core beliefs gave rise to our behaviours, attitudes, interactions, and value judgments. Some of these are positive, and we hold on to them, nurturing them to be stronger. Many of these are harmful to us, to our relationships, and to the goals we seek to reach. Negative core beliefs can make us feel helpless, unworthy, unloved, undesirable, incompetent, powerless, and inferior, and can make us view others as untrustworthy, uncaring, manipulative, untruthful, and deceptive. When we acknowledge the untruth and harmfulness of these, we are ready to take the steps to let them go.
We shall have a deeper look at these beliefs in Part 2 of Change, Transition, Beliefs and Transformation.
Change, Transition, Beliefs and Transformation Part 3
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