4 Reasons Why We Resist Change

“Things are changing. But nothing changes. And still, there are changes” ― Michael Cretu

Change is happening all the time. Within you and outside of you. It is the one constant in this life. Sometimes it happens very fast yet other times very slow, over the course of millions of years. It also varies in scale, from the microscopic to a grand scale. It is happening with people, powers, nations, nature and the universe as a whole.

It is the most natural state of being in the universe. All things, animate and inanimate, go through and adapt to change as everything in this universe is constantly in a state of flux yet it is the one thing that we humans resist the most!

So why are we so opposed to change? Why do we resist it? Change of weather, governments, traffic conditions, change of management at work or change within our bodies (wrinkles and grey hair). Irrespective of the scale, why do we resist the most natural state of our being?

Our Grasp Of Permanence

“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.” ― W. Somerset Maugham

Everything in this universe is impermanent, including, perhaps the universe itself. Nothing lasts forever; trees, rivers, mountains, emotions, relations, nations, families, physical bodies and even our sorrows and struggles. This is the one indisputable fact of life – Nothing lasts forever.

Impermanence is, in fact, “the singular existential problem that the whole edifice of Buddhist practice is meant to address”. (Read more about impermanence here and here).
Our resistance to change is our vain attempt of holding onto things (that will eventually change). A way of creating a perceived sense of ‘stability’ in our lives. We feel as though we are always going to be young and full of energy. Our parents are going to live forever. Our children will always be ‘cute’ and love us forever. Our marriages and friendships are going to last forever. Maybe not, things will eventually change, for better or for worse. Yet we treat change as a threat to our current state of being – whether it be happy or otherwise. Are we so far removed from our natural states that we don’t recognise change as an essential agent of the universe and a catalyst for growth.

Change Creates Uncertainty And Doubt

Change = Different.
With change comes uncertainty, as change enforces a new, and more importantly, a different way of thinking and doing things. We don’t like different – We prefer familiarity. We relish the known. Change forces us to be conscious, to become aware and re-examine our motivations, aspirations, methods and processes.
We are creatures of habit, we like our routines, comfort zones and our ‘old and trusted’ ways of doing things. Change pushes us to think in new ways and inhibits us to operate on autopilot any further, without putting much thought into our life. It pushes us to adjust our expectations, habits and reality accordingly. It is not always easy, in fact, more often than not, we find it hard.

Change Creates The Fear Of Unknown

With change also comes the fear, the fear of unknown. Not only does change compels us to think and do things in a new way, but it also forces us to contemplate if the new way will, or will not work.

  • Will I like this new country/city/neighbourhood/suburb I am moving to?
  • Will I fit-in to this new workplace and its culture?
  • Will this new car be as reliable as my old one?
  • Will this new [fill in the blank] make me feel better or worse than the existing one?

We like knowing things, we like predictability and reliability. Change, however, pushes us in the realm of the unknown. The one thing humans have disliked, feared and struggled with the most throughout history is the unknown. We have, in fact, created intricate and elaborate stories of gods, creation, heavens and the mechanisms of the earth to deal with the unknown, most of which we now refer to as mythology (take a moment to let that sink in).

Loss Of Control

Loss of control is one of the most important and overlooked reasons for resisting change. More than anything, humans like to be in control, to have a sense of autonomy, authority, dominance or power. Whether in a relationship, workplace or in the case of nations – We like control, we desire to feel important and we wish to have a say. If we are forced to do things in a new way and contemplate its viability, fearing the unknown along the way, it is safe to say we lose our sense of control and autonomy.
We succumb to new ways of doing things and finding our way again, like a rookie. Trial and error. We are afraid to ask the ‘dumb’ questions and to look like a fool. We are afraid of embarrassment and social isolation. All this because change forces us out of our comfort zones and compels us to adapt and survive.

Before we talk about why and how to embrace change, it is vital to understand our reasons for resisting it. These make up some of the fundamental causes of resisting change. I highly encourage you to get an understanding of the concept of impermanence, to begin with, and reflect upon your own personal reasons for not accepting change. Next week I will highlight some of the ways you can accept and embrace change.

Further Reading

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