The pain of change. Is there a change that you have been wanting to make but feel stuck?

I am currently attempting to make a lifestyle change, which I finally determined was necessary after waking during many mornings with worry. I realized that the worry was more than just because I am prone to critical self-analysis when reassuring myself that I am loved no matter what wasn’t enough.

A counseling professor once said, “when the pain of a situation becomes greater than the pain of making a change, you will make a change”. I see evidence of this time and time again in my personal life and in my professional life as a counselor. People wait until the situation is almost unrepairable before they ask for help to change.

I believe some of the struggles with change is how our brain responds to shame. Shame floods our brain with cortisol and norepinephrine, sending us into survival mode which inhibits growth. So we feel bad about what we are not doing or what we are doing, and it keeps us stuck.

Kindness and self-compassion trigger dopamine, increasing feelings of happiness and allowing growth.

So how do we remain kind to ourselves even when we want to change? Mindfulness skills cultivate awareness, acceptance, and non-judgment in the present moment.

Tara Brach, the author of Radical Acceptance, teaches how to awake self-compassion by recognizing the 2nd arrow in Buddhism. The first arrow is the negative emotion, and the second arrow is the judgment about the emotion: Arrow #1) Feeling of ______, Arrow #2) I’m bad for feeling this ______. We cannot prevent the 1st arrow but we can prevent the 2nd arrow by changing the way we respond to the 1st arrow with acceptance.

According to Brach, the dominant culture assumes that in order to belong we must meet certain standards, creating an undercurrent of toxicity that “I am not ok” or the sense that “there’s a problem and the problem is me”. She refers to this as the “trance of unworthiness”. Her RAIN meditation offers a way to practice bringing a healing quality to problems: