The idea of permanency is comforting but false. There is nothing that exists today that is truly permanent. No person, species, system, technology, company, job, building, highway…nothing.
Nothing is permanent.
So why are we caught up in believing that so many things are?
Because we tell ourselves that they are.
Unfortunate things can happen when you are attached to permanency. Wanting things to stay as they are creates a strong resistance to change. It makes you defensive and territorial. It causes you to dig in your heels, argue your viewpoints, and overlook or minimize growth opportunities. Another form of attachment to permanency…believing that things will never change…compels you to stay in an unhealthy relationship, remain in a job you dislike, excuse yourself from taking action, and generally creates complacency. Hanging on for dear life to a thought, a situation, or a person constrains your potential. It impedes your growth. Even when those thoughts, situations, and people are positive. As French author, François de la Rochefoucauld said so accurately and eloquently, “The only constant in life is change.” No matter the situation, it will change, for better or worse. How you handle the change will dictate how you move through it (see my blog post on choosing your attitude here for some encouragement).
The sooner you let go of (ok, reduce…that’s more realistic) your attachment to permanency (otherwise known as being resistant to change), the sooner you can see any situation for what it truly is (changeable and ever-changing) and be able to better go with the flow, accept change, and make things happen.
So what can you do? Please note, I am not an expert, psychologist, or psychiatrist. These are things that help me when I find myself being certain of permanency and resisting or getting caught off guard by change. By no means do I think my techniques work for everyone but I’d like to share just in case a few of them can help you.
- I own my attachments, at least privately. “I am attached to this situation and really don’t want it to change.” “I was blindsided…I didn’t see this coming and I’m feeling defensive, hurt and embarrassed.” “I’m afraid to take action because I don’t know what will happen once I do. It might be better if I just leave things as they are.” Once I can verbalize what I’m feeling, I can start to work with it.
- I take a few deep breaths. Then I try to find the true source of my attachment (which usually manifests itself as worry, anxiety, and resistance) and understand why it seems (or seemed) so permanent. I ask myself questions like: Why am I resisting this? Why am I holding on to this? What is causing me to feel and think this way? Why did I think this wouldn’t change? Was this situation ever truly permanent?
- I think through my options and decide how I am going to react and what, if anything, I am going to do. It’s important to have a plan of action if you want to handle or create change as gracefully as possible.
- I give it time. I believe that the old adage ‘time heals all wounds’ is true. In fact, thinking back to overwhelming times in my life where what I thought was permanent crumbled, the story I told myself in those moments was far worse than what actually happened. It’s amazing how in a couple of days, an incredibly difficult situation becomes minor and eventually forgotten. Sometimes it’s best to just let some time pass before doing anything.
- If I can’t get my brain to stop the persistent, spiraling negative chatter, I write. Writing out my thoughts, feelings, and plans helps me let go of the situation, even if only for a while. It’s remarkable how therapeutic it can be.
- I practice not being attached to the little things. I used to get caught up in the small stuff, wanting to control the outcomes of almost everything in fear of something changing in a way I didn’t want it to. Not only did this make me miserable, but it’s also impossible to do. Going with the flow on the smaller things helped me see that life was much easier when I quit resisting and just let the situation unfold. I tap into this understanding when the issues are larger, the stakes are higher, and my attachment to permanency runs deeper.
- I seek help. I have two outstanding coaches, a trusted mentor, my husband, my mother, and my team to bounce my feelings and thoughts off of. This group of people listens to me, gives sound advice, challenges me, supports me, makes me laugh, and most importantly, holds me accountable. It’s essential to have at least one person in your life who can be this for you, too.
None of this work is easy nor is it comfortable. But the truth of any situation is that it is not permanent and it will always change. The goal isn’t to hopelessly give in when you feel that the right thing to do is resist or give up when you think something shouldn’t change. It’s about being able to recognize that attachment to permanency can lead to stress and unhappiness. Rather than let it take you down an unhealthy path, frame your thoughts and feelings from a place of wanting to be part of a solution and finding a positive outcome. Sometimes that means letting go, sometimes that means finding a different way. But always it means that it will change.
I’ll leave you with this quote from the author, Ursula K. Le Guin, as food for thought: “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”
Please feel free to comment, like, and share. It’s always appreciated.