The psychologist Carl Jung once warned humanity that what you resist persists. He was pointing out that when people try to resist things it tends to increase their suffering. This warning certainly applies to change, and those who try to resist change will usually suffer as a consequence. This is not to say that change for change’s sake is a good thing. Instead what it is saying is that some change is inevitable in a person’s life and to fight against this is a futile effort. There will also be changes where it is right and important for people to resist.
If people hope to escape alcohol or drug addiction their life will have to change. There is no way to get around this. The reasons for why change is so important for people in recovery include:
* There is an important proverb that applies to people recovering from an addiction and it says that if you keep on doing the same things the same things will keep on happening to you. Those who give up an addiction have made the choice that they want new and better things to start happening to them so this means that they have to do things differently.
* Human development only occurs because of change – it is a vital component of nature. If the early humans resisted change people would still be living in caves.
* Change is what gives people their second chance in life. Without the ability to change there would be no hope for the addict.
* When people become sober they begin to learn how to live their life in better and more fulfilling ways. With this new learning comes the need to change.
* It is vital that people realize that recovery is a process and not an event _ there is no real graduation day for those in recovery and they need to be continually evolving. When people become stuck in recovery their life becomes uncomfortable, and they will be at high risk of relapse.
* If everything stayed the same life would soon become unbearably boring. It is these changes that keep things interesting.
* Change is the key component of growth and development.
Fear of change is not just something that affects people recovering from an addiction – it is a difficulty that most people have to one degree or another. There are many reasons for why such fear exists such as:
* Change can be viewed as bad – for example, a person might lose their job.
* It means that the person has to leave their comfort zone and take a step into the unknown.
* There is comfort in what is already familiar. Change upsets the normal routine.
* It can get in the way of people’s future plans.
* Some people have a natural tendency to rebel against any changes imposed upon them – this is referred to as demand resistance.
* Those who have low self esteem or have a tendency towards pessimism will view any change as bad.
There are a number of reasons for why people will resist change in recovery including:
* It is natural for people to find comfort in the familiar, and this means that they can view any alternation to their life as a threat. Even those individuals who are living a less than satisfactory life can try to cling onto what they are used to because of their belief that it is better the devil you know.
* People tend to have a fear of the unknown and all change involves facing this and moving forward. Those individuals who have a tendency towards negative thinking will view changes pessimistically.
* If the individual does not see the need for change they will be unwilling to embrace it. This failure to understand the need for change often arises because of lack of knowledge about the situation.
* Some people in recovery are naturally demand resistant, and this means that they naturally rebel against any demands or expectations that are put upon them. If this type of person feels that the change is being imposed upon them their automatic reaction will be to resist it.
* The individual may just not like the proposed change and so they refuse to go along with it.
Often there can be good reason to resist change and it is right that people should do this. This is particularly important when such changes are likely to hurt the individual or those close to them. If this change is being imposed by a higher authority the person may suffer as a consequence of their resistance, but it may still be the right thing for them to do. Those individuals who are in this situation need to think carefully so that they fully understand their motivations and the likely outcome of their resistance. Sometimes it is just better to go with the flow even if the person has reservations about the changes. This can be particular true in a work environment where team harmony can be damaged by too much discord. If there are moral issues related to the change the individual will need to examine their own conscience.
If people intend to make a good life for themselves in recovery they will need to learn how to manage change. Some of the ways they can do this include:
* If people understand the need for the change they will be less likely to resist it. This means that the person should investigate the reasons for why this change might be necessary.
* Develop wisdom in order to differentiate unnecessary and undesirable change from necessary and beneficial change.
* The general attitude that the individual has towards change is crucial. If they have an optimistic attitude they will tend to see change as exciting, but if they are pessimistic they will view it as threatening – it therefore pays to develop a more optimistic outlook.
* Those people who have a high level of self esteem will tend to cope better with changes. The individual can built their feelings of self worth by facing challenges and achieving goals.
* People in recovery need to be careful with nostalgia so that they do not glorify the past too much. Those who have a unrealistic view of how things were in the past will tend towards seeing any new developments as a bad thing.
* Journaling can be helpful at making changes in life easier. It allows the individual to look back on their past and see how much change has benefited them.
* Those individuals who develop emotional sobriety and serenity will find change much easier to deal with. This person will have an inner sense of peace that cannot be ruffled no matter what is going on externally.
* Those individuals who are demand resistance will need to work to overcome this habit.
A common reason for why addicts resist change is not so much that they fear it but that they have a tendency towards demand resistance. This can be defined as an unconscious chronic negative response to demands, real or perceived, internal or external. The individual has a natural resistance to any demands or expectations that are put upon them, and this can even include their own demands and expectations. This type of attitude develops in childhood and carries on into adulthood. The most usual reason for why it develops is that the child had parents who tried to enforce standards that were impossibly high. In order to cope with this situation the child learns to rebel. As they grow older they have an unconscious tendency to rebel against any authority figure in their life.
The fact that this is a learned behavior means that it can be unlearned. In order to overcome demand resistance the individual can:
* Develop awareness of this tendency so they can spot it as it arises. It is vital that the person is able to differentiate between demand resistance and good reasons to resist change.
* The individual should deliberately force themselves to go along with demands and changes when it is reasonable to do so. This will help break the habit of just resisting things on impulse.
* One of the danger words for people dealing with demand resistance is should. The person might want to completely remove this word from their dictionary and replace it with want to.
* If the individual finds that demand resistance is seriously impacting their life they may benefit from speaking with a therapist about it.
* The person needs to be clear about the changes they want to make and the steps they are going to take to make these changes.