From time to time we have others suggest that we change something about our lives or ourselves if it doesn’t appear to work for us anymore. They see us from a different viewpoint and call attention to how stuck we seem to be. Perhaps they are tired of hearing us complain about the same old dilemmas, and offer ideas to help shift our thinking, hopefully encouraging us to move off of our stuck point. These good folks generally mean well. But they often grow frustrated with our resistance to their efforts to help get us unstuck.
We may be in distress with the same-old, and some ideas that our friends propose may definitely sound reasonable, perhaps even exciting. And, we “get” that it certainly might be a good idea to make some changes for the better… But HOW do we begin to figure out what changes are in order, and HOW do we move beyond the fear and anxiety that generally goes hand in hand with introducing “something different” to our familiar world! Getting stuck in a rut and afraid to move from it is a human condition we all experience.
Change of any sort can be exciting and uplifting — an opportunity for a fresh start, a new beginning. But change can also be scary, filled with uncertainty, and give us cause to worry. When we fear change, our anxiety levels escalate, often to the point where we become immobilized. Frozen in our state of anxiety and fear… Unable to make any sort of decision that speaks to changing what is familiar, no matter how bad it may be…
And so we find ourselves in a rut, moving around and around the same old obstacles, knowing we need to do something different, but giving in to the fear and anxiety. We choose to play it safe and avoid change rather than embarking on a different path that might be better, but could possibly generate more pain and uncertainty. Certainly a vicious cycle!
I think about an experience I have had several times in my life, as a child and with my own children when they were young. We would visit a carnival or petting zoo, and there would be a pony ride for the children. Typically there was one, maybe two ponies, connected by a rope to a central pole. They were trained to walk in a circle around the pool, carrying a child on their back, with a guide at their side. As much as I loved to ride on the back of a pony, or watch my daughters ride, it always seemed very sad that the poor animals were so restricted in their movement — to only go in one direction, around and around, wearing a deep rut in the earth beneath their hooves. For them there seemed to be no other option. They were confined, and controlled by the trainers. I would much rather have watched them roam freely.
Yet, it puzzles me as to why we as humans, who have so many more options than carnival ponies, behave in the same way — moving in only one direction, navigating along a deep boring rut for a very long period of time, giving little thought or effort to what new and different paths we might take in our lives. Is it our underlying fear of anxiety and change that shuts down our search for new possibilities?