Thanks to JR, HM & PT for suggestions leading to this week’s theme.
Change can be a wonderful thing and lead to a sense of rejuvenation, newness, gleeful anticipation, and even a sense of relief. But not all changes are the same, and sometimes all or part of a change can create other sensations and emotions, one of which is fear.
There are many faces of fear, and this week I am going to highlight three of them; fear of ambiguity, fear of the unknown, and fear of loss. I should note that these three fears are not all encompassing, nor are they exclusive to one another. There are no rules around fear (which is probably a real bummer to the people experiencing the fear of ambiguity), and we can have as many or as little as we allow.
For those of you who have read my earlier writing about different perspectives of the same change, fear is typically a contributor to the perspectives of resistance and distress.
Next week I will delve further into our individual perceptions of change, using the same model, but for now, let’s dig into fear, and how to shift out of it when one of these three faces rears its unattractive head.
Today provides a general description of each face of fear during change, which will be followed by a dedicated post for each type on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then wrapped up in summary of this week’s theme on Friday.
The three faces of fear.
Fear of ambiguity.
This fear is based on confusion about how to proceed when there are no clear rules, or when there are many exceptions to a given rule or situation.
For those of us who love rules, a lot of clarity, or have a preference for seeing things as being either black or white, and have no love for the gray areas in between, ambiguity is likely something you have struggled with at some point.
There is usually a lot of ambiguity in change, because as old rules fade away, new ones emerge. Yet before the old ones fully fade, and the new ones become solidified, there are a lot of variables to take into account when determining what to do or how to be. It may be that the change itself is to a place where less certainty and more ambiguity exists most or all of the time.
As our world becomes more ambiguous in nature, learning how to work with it, rather than resist it, is a must.
Fear of the unknown.
What will happen if…
Should I stay or should I go?
Will I ever understand this stuff?
Can I make it on my own?
These are some examples of unknown situations we can wrestle with interminably. They represent our attempts to gain more certainty about the future, in order to make the best decisions. They also represent a level of discontent with our current situation that has inspired our consideration of a possible change.
This fear has more to do with the prospect of inciting change, than responding to it, although it could be the outcome of a change that has led to our level of discontent in the first place (a new job, a new relationship, a new boss).
Fear of loss.
If you find yourself micromanaging your team, family or friends, or create extremely detailed schedules or plans for your pet sitter (as I once did), or other less certain aspects of your life, you are likely experiencing a fear of loss. In this case, a loss of our sense of control.
Change is all about endings and beginnings, and sometimes we just plain don’t want what we have right now to end. And when we don’t feel we have a choice in the matter, when someone else breaks off our relationship, or someone else lays us off, or someone we love passes away, we feel vulnerable, and powerless; two sensations that can lead to powerful, and sometimes unpredictable and erratic behaviors.
Our love affair with certainty.
We humans are geared to want certainty in our lives. Certainty is known and predictable, and when we have it, we know how to be and what to expect. When we don’t have it, we feel wobbly and self-conscious and sometimes afraid.
But recognizing and understanding ourselves when faced with things like ambiguity, the unknown or loss helps us to gain clarity. Clarity about ourselves, our desires and the best thing to do when these things occur.
Tomorrow we’ll delve deeper into the fear of ambiguity along with some tips on how to become friends with the gray.
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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