The Blog

Fear and the 'Anti-Change Factor'

It isn't something of which most of us are aware, but we human beings are "marked" with a certain strange feature, and that is: We want to change.
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It isn't something of which most of us are aware, but we human beings are "marked" with a certain strange feature, and that is: We want to change.

Perhaps you're thinking, "What's so strange about that?" After all, who amongst us isn't familiar with this ever-present longing? Granted, taken by itself, this desire doesn't seem so strange -- until, that is, we realize the obvious: We are always changing. In fact, not a single moment goes by where who -- and what -- we are remains the same.

Statistics vary, but in less than seven years there won't be a single cell left in any of our bodies that's the same as it is today. This means that any human being who "wants" to change is like a mountain river wanting to reach the valley floor. It's a done deal; that's what mountain rivers do, and "changing" should be our first nature. Yet...

Any true longing we have to change is born of our innate wish to transcend our present level of being: on the one hand to know -- consciously, unmistakably -- that we are fulfilling some unseen but higher reason for our very existence, and, at the same time, as a prerequisite to this invisible mandate, to rise above those prevalent and often quite dark parts of us that drag us down and soil or spoil our relationships with others. Few would argue these points. Yet this longing to participate in the perfection of our beings has been subverted and, perhaps more truly spoken, stolen from out of our hands.

In these times -- where social appearance is more important than spiritual substance -- what has become our longing to change is really the unconscious desire to control not just the shape of our bodies (according to prevailing values) but to dominate our environment as well, regardless of the cost. In case it's not clear, such "control" is the antithesis of change; it is in conflict with it. Cases abound if we take off our blinders to see them.

Consider for a moment the growing popularity of "anti-aging" products. In truth, all that these salves, pills, shots, and drinks do is mask the fact that from the moment one is born, one's body is doing what it has been created to do: flower and fade away, having passed on whatever perfection of understanding it may have gained for what it went through during its brief journey on this earth. But dying is part of changing -- not the end of it, as most fear. Regardless of retarding the inevitable, one's conflict with life's natural changes still rages on beneath the skin in one's heart and mind. Covering a battlefield with plastic flowers doesn't change what's taken place there, or what lies just under its ravaged soil. Which brings me to the reason for this blog:

Something lurks within all spiritually sleeping beings that doesn't just serve to limit revelation -- to inhibit the real and meaningful changes it brings -- but that acts, decisively, to prohibit this kind of deep transformation. What is this agent of fear and the spiritual darkness in which hides? We will call it... the "anti-change factor."

Resistance to revelation, resistance to becoming conscious of all that dwells within us -- high and low, light and dark -- is the anti-change factor. It is also the mainspring of all our psychological fears. And since we human beings tend to automatically resist anything unwanted (whatever it may be that reveals that our character and lives are nothing like what we've imagined them to be), this means that all such revelations are rejected on the spot.

On the surface (meaning, seen through the eyes of the self caught up in a negative reaction), resistance to an unwanted revelation about oneself makes "sense" -- as when we "eject" an intruding pest from our house. But as we're about to discover, resisting our fears doesn't distance us from them, let alone remove them from our interior world. Quite the contrary. Here are the three secret stages of psychological resistance, and why it is the "anti-change factor."

Resistance separates, isolates, and finally crystallizes whatever is being resisted.

Now, here's the key to changing our relationship with what's ruining our wish to change: Resistance to some unwanted psychological state does not distance us from our fear of it, nor does it reduce our suffering. In fact, such unconscious resistance is actually a kind of reverse identification with whatever is being resisted -- including what we fear! This kind of attention doesn't just animate what it falls on, it actually helps manifest what would have no right to exist otherwise. So the longer we resist whatever we fear in ourselves -- or about life itself -- the more real it becomes.

To summarize: Psychological resistance makes as one the self and the fear or worry that it resists. This means that the solution to our unwanted suffering is in seeing our complicity with it. For only then are we willing to die to the part of us that believes it can free itself by not wanting to be itself.

For more by Guy Finley, click here.

For more on becoming fearless, click here.