Our human tendency to resist change

Change, as a noun, is considered to be “the act or process through which something becomes different.“ It is, per se, not a dual (good/bad) thing at all. Why is it then that we always seem to struggle with change in every area of our lives? Why do we tend to resist change?

If we accept the idea of change being inevitable and a natural part of the human process, why do we frequently have a hard time dealing with it? How is it that we usually -if not always- end up feeling stressed, doubtful and nostalgic about life ‘before’ changing? Do we all resist change the same way? Do we all resist change at all?

All creatures resist change to a certain degree. And even if we all undergo the same process and stages, we all have different timings and ways to actually deal with each of them.
Let’s review what happened to me, for example. I decided to come here, and found myself in denial anyway. I was unable to fully accept the idea of leaving my home country again.
At first I was not only nostalgic, but also angry about everything. Angry about the weather, the food, the winter darkness, the language, the opening times for grocery and convenience stores, the continuous raining whenever I wanted to go out, having to bike everywhere I wanted to go, etc.
I actually spent the first year going back and forth in between denial, anger, and confusion, spending 6 out of 12 months away from the Netherlands. Then I moved onto the depression stage that fortunately didn’t last that much for me. I began to study the language, met new people, volunteered in activities of my interest and widened my support network.
Later on the crisis hit me hard. What if I was going to stay here for life? Would it be really possible to move away again? Time kept on passing and I was still here. So I consciously decided to begin the journey into acceptance. Whether I stay here for life or not, -I said to myself- the fact is I am here now, and ‘now’ is the only thing I have to work with.
Please don’t get me wrong. Resistance is a very natural thing to happen. And we all have experienced it. Even if reasons to resist change may vary from case to case, we all experience resistance to it and go through the stages at our own pace.
I can imagine you wondering if resistance is not something we all should actually look for to develop as a quality; first it can be perceived –according to a dictionary- as “the ability not to be affected by something adverse.” But the kind of resistance I am referring to, is “the refusal to accept or comply with something”
Honestly, resistance is not something good or bad. But I would like you to consider the following scenario to better understand how resistance works:

For the purpose of the example, your only task is to naturally resist.

  • Imagine you and I are standing in front of each other. Our arms are extended to our fronts and our palms open facing each other. I approach you and begin pushing your palms and you start to walk backwards. So you begin pushing forward, trying to make me walk backwards and regain your previous position.
  • As I feel you begin to push me I give in to it but instead of moving backwards as you probably expected me to, I move to the right side. So you followed me.
  • Yes, you followed me because you are not supposed to let me go. You are supposed to resist, remember?
  • So, think about this: If I move right as soon as you begin to resist (push) me, and you cannot let go off me just yet, you have no other choice but to follow me, right?
  • That is how -and why- the thing you are trying to resist to can effortlessly take control over you. That is how resistance actually works. In order for it to happen, there must be two opposite forces, “controlling” one another in order to keep resisting.

    Therefore, I would like you to be conscious of what you might be resisting to right now, for it might be controlling you without you even noticing. Take a moment and ask yourself: is there anything controlling my thoughts, my emotions, my (re)actions? Is there anything I don’t want to be happening, taking all my waking hours and appearing even in my dreams? Am I resisting? Am I being controlled by what I am resisting to?

Next: How to best manage -and overcome- resistance to change?

Rebeca GM

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