- Christine Forest, M.D.
- Los Angeles, California
- I have initially created the Better Than Cured Guide to Healing and Happiness to help patients in my psychiatric private practice who were suffering from anxiety and depression. My goal was not only to help them get well, but beyond that, to also help them find a viable path to a happier life. They were loosing any hope that they can ever be healthy and happy again. They were amazed when they did it. If hundreds of my patients could do it, so can you, my dear reader. I hope their stories of courage and success will empower you to reinvent yourself and rekindle the hope that your life too can be better and that your pain can be healed. Set your life course on a "better than cured" path that leads to your own profound and personal journey to healing and happiness. For more information about my medical career and my private practice, please visit my web site at drforest.com.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
“NEW” IS GOOD
The Need and Resistance to Change
As of today, March 2012, economists agree that we are slowly emerging from the recession. Whether it is because of the mild winter or the "Obama stimulus" or other factors, the consensus is that the economy is improving. There is also a growing consensus that our society will emerge from this recession changed in many ways.
Many jobs that before required workers in the past, can now be done by machine or have been exported to other countries where the labor is cheaper. Sound too sic-fi for you? Ask the thousands of people who lost their jobs in this way, often made to create the very machines or to train the very people that ended up replacing them. In the new economy there is, once again, a need for workers. But the workers needed now, are people with more skills and higher expertise.
Severely overworked, the productivity of people who do have a job, but are asked to do more and more work to keep it, is rapidly decreasing. This can be a signal to the employers that there is no more work that can be squeezed out of the skeleton crews they left in place after massive lay-outs. If they want their companies to continue to grow, they need to change the strategy. The time has come at last for the corporations to hire again. The question is who will be chosen?
What can one do to compete in this new society? Anthropologists will tell you that from prehistoric times humans survived as a species because they were innovative in taking care of their basic survival needs. They had ideas that transformed their lives forever: using sharp rocks as tools, learning how to control fire, learning how to grow crops. They survived because their minds were creative and innovative and allowed them to constantly learn and adapt. That capacity is in us today. People able to adapt quickly to new circumstances or challenges are considered to be smarter and more creative and are regarded with admiration. Why is adaptability a trait so much valued? Because it is linked to survival.
In a world in which we no longer literally hunt for food, our personal well-being has become attached to other forms of success: career, education, material possessions, status, an “exciting” life-style and so on. Therefore, new qualities are beginning to be needed to achieve successful survival. How do we know which qualities we will need to adapt to the post-recession world?
The capacity to adapt and create new worlds is still in us today, but so is the natural, innate tendency to resist change. Why is human nature so reluctant to change? One explanation is because change means instability and usually instability triggers intense fear. Our deeply rooted instincts, conditioned to maintain balance and stability, get on high alert mode when something threatens that balance. Our emotions, according to affective neuroscience, are believed to be at the very foundation of how our brain and mind works. Fear is a powerful emotion triggered automatically when the mind perceives a threat to its normal routine. When the threat is change, the emotional balancing mechanisms will try to manage the emotional reaction--fear of change—instinctively. An example of biological and emotional instinctive defense mechanism is “fight or flight.” When facing a fierce animal in the wild, with the goal of physical survival, it is an extremely helpful mechanism. But in the modern society where we face different types of threats, like losing income, prestige or social status, sometimes we need to override the “fight or flight” instinct, face our deepest fears and take an entirely different type of corrective measures.
This is an example when the cognitive aspect of our brain, the mind, developed much more recently in the evolution of our brain, needs to come in and control the ancestral emotional blueprint. One way to do it is through cultivating powerful motivations. Controlling and keeping the fear-emotion in check, allows the mind to create and execute an action plan to contain the threat, in our example, the threat of change.
Often, a bold action plan implies going against one’s fear. But when the action is well planned and carefully executed, it can trigger positive, rewarding changes that will quiet and sooth the instinctive aversion to change and will establish a new and reinforced emotional balance.
The conclusion is this: If you build in your mind such a powerful willingness to take a life-changing action, you can definitely override your fears and successfully deal with change.
Transformation and change is, inevitably and perpetually, the name of the game. Is it easy, comfortable or convenient changing? Of course not! It is stressful and scary and plenty confusing. Even if you just admit it is scary, routine, more emotionally comfortable, will try to pull you toward keeping things the way they are. The trouble is doing nothing often takes you straight to the obsolescence pool, which is populated by many who feel stuck and bitter, pointlessly reminiscing about "the good old days," and unable to effectively adapt to change. People who stubbornly try to fit reality in a narrowly conditioned frame of mind are usually left behind in a fast paced society. They are not fighting against their emotions. Hopelessly they keep trying to fight against their fear of change by opposing change and denying the need for action.
Do you want to see yourself there? I doubt it. In reality, no one ends up there by choice. Going against your own fears, objectively assessing the circumstances of your situation and making the hard choices change often demands, is a very hard and brave thing to do. Neither denial nor inaction, but only courage and determination will help you see and chose the new opportunities opening right in front of you.
Staying open, staying informed, being ready to quickly use your existing skills in a new way or being ready to learn entirely new skills, are just a few of the things one can do to prevent becoming redundant and easily replaceable. Many people who have been laid off have already gone back to school to increase their work value in the new job market. Many more have learned different jobs. The transformation of our work force and our society is happening rapidly.
Where and how can we find the courage to change?
To be continued on Thursday with Part II: Finding The Courage To Change