*This blog was originally written for the Grateful Heart Holistic Therapy Center’s Blog.
A Change Is Gonna Come. You know, that Sam Cooke song from the 1960s that was covered by everyone from Al Green and Tina Turner to the Fugees and Leela James? Cooke croons, “It’s been a long, a long time coming but I know a change gonna come.” And whether you greet change with open arms or with paralyzing terror, the truth is, it’s gonna come regardless. And if we go way back, I mean WAY back, Heraclitus in Ancient Greece was attributed to saying, “Nothing endures but change.” In other words, the only constant is change.
So change has come to my practice – I moved into my new office in Emeryville on June 1, after being on Lincoln Street in Berkeley for nearly seven years. I also passed my last MFT Board Exam on June 10, and officially got my MFT license number on June 27 (#53622). So, that means I am officially independent now and I feel relieved after a long and challenging road.
It seems fitting that my first blog post for Grateful Heart (and my last as an intern there) will be about change. My role will morph to Center “alumna” and I’m looking forward to encouraging other interns during what I know to be a very challenging stretch.
I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about change a bit, since we all have very different relationships to it. Some people love change – going to the same restaurant twice is boring or predictable. Others fear it as if it’s a four letter word. Then, there are all the people that land on the spectrum between those two. What is your own relationship to change? Do you welcome it? Do you fear it? Are you impulsive around it? Very methodical and prepared? It helps to know our temperament, so we can get through transitions well.
If you’re someone who loves change – can’t stay at a job, at a home, in a city, or relationship for very long, then your challenge is to notice what happens inside you when you imagine staying put. It’s befriending what you might call “boredom,” “predictability” or “routine.” It may be hard to see what the benefits are, but you get to create deeper connections, more safety, and consistency.
If you’re someone who really fears change – then your challenge is to adapt to new ways, environments, and circumstances. It doesn’t mean you have to start moving out, breaking up with your partner, and doing a 180 degree turn. It means acknowledging that change is inevitable – your body changes, your relationships evolve, your colleagues leave, new people arrive, things begin and end, your ideas and opinions change based on your life experience. We’re not supposed to be stuck in time – that’s when stagnation sets in. The sign of a functional family, actually, is being flexible to life’s changes: giving more freedom and responsibility to a child as he enters adolescence; adapting to a parent’s illness or job loss; deciding what will work best for the members of the family and the family as a whole. If a parent has a belief that children should go to public school (as a political statement), but the child isn’t doing well there, then parents need to adapt in some way. Inflexibility is a sign of dysfunction. However, flexibility doesn’t mean flip-floppy, moody, changeable. It means consciously adapting to the situation at hand.
I want to say that for most people, transitions are difficult, even if they’re for the best. It’s important to recognize when you’re going through a transition – moving from college into the job market; losing or gaining weight; recovering from an affair; having growing kids or aging parents; preparing to leave but still being where you are. These are all examples of transitional times – and they are times to be gentle with yourself, a little bit more understanding and compassionate. A “new normal” will eventually emerge.
So, while I’m going through this transition, I am watching my feelings about leaving “the nest,” my excitement for the future, and getting used to new routines. It is a fruitful time for me that will no doubt be full of growth opportunities.