Fear of change (also known as metathesiophobia) is pretty normal nowadays. Change is happening all around us. Nowadays, it’s happening faster than ever – portable phones that were once the size and weight of several house bricks are now so light you forget they’re in your pocket; televisions are bigger, flatter and cheaper with hundreds more channels; meals your grandparents would have taken hours to prepare can be microwaved in minutes.
But sometimes change can be scary…
The fear of change can worry lots of people.
Whether it’s the fear of changing jobs (whether the change is your choice or not), worry about changing school or college or just a general sense of being scared because “things aren’t the same any more”. Fear of change can eat away at us and prevent us from doing things that would actually make our lives better.
If you’re able to be rational about your fear of change, you can probably talk your mind round to embracing the change.
But most of us aren’t in that fortunate position. The very thought of change starts us creating obstacles and thinking up ways to put off the change – either for a short while or ideally forever.
A lot of the time, this thought process isn’t the best one to get into. We spend more time worrying about what will happen when things change than the actual change itself takes. And afterwards, we often step back to think “why was I worried about that?”
Think about it for a moment – how many times have you run through those nasty, scary “what if” scenarios in your mind?
And how many times have those scenarios come even close to coming true?
If you’re like most people, it’s maybe 1 in 100 that come even vaguely near the worst, worst, worst case outcome that was spinning through your mind and causing you to worry unduly.
Most of the time, it’s not even close and the actual outcome is an anti-climax, albeit one that’s a relief.
Accept that you don’t know the future
Being able to forsee the future is a rare skill – arguably Nostradamus had it, although quite a lot of his predictions have had to be tailored to match the facts.
There are probably a few psychics who have the skill but most of them are just good at cold reading their subjects and talk about generalities. A bit like your daily horoscope where every single prediction could apply to almost anyone – try reading all 12 star sign predictions for one day and you’ll see what I mean.
The only constant in our future is change.
Maybe it’s relatively predictable change like the weather.
Maybe it’s a big event that seems as though your whole world has altered and the protective shell that you had around you has disintegrated, leaving you feeling vulnerable.
Whatever it is, the change will happen whether you accept it or not. It’s almost as inevitable as having to tick “I agree” to those terms and conditions you never read.
Accepting that the future will happen whether or not you know precisely what will happen is a good step and will lift a weight off your mind as you stop trying to move a mountain with a spoon or at least reduce the amount of time you spend fretting about what could happen.
Embrace small changes first
Not every change is big.
There’s a great line in Al Stewart’s song that says we never see the change from day to day.
And that’s so true.
If you look at a photo of your local high street or shopping mall from a decade ago it’s probably almost unrecognisable. The stores you grew up with and thought would always be there have changed or vanished.
Brands that were familiar to you when you grew up are no longer with you. Or, if they are, there’s a good chance they’ve changed.
Maybe small changes – that happens a lot with big brands such as Coca Cola where they want to keep the design looking relevant without traumatising existing customers or causing them to think something has changed in the product formula.
Adverts change even more as things that were acceptable or commonplace change.
Embracing small changes helps to shift your mindset and chips away at the edges of the larger changes that appear so worrying.
It’s easy to accept something small – here in the UK, product pack sizes of products have shifted over the years as we gradually kind-of adopt the metric system; crisps (chips if you’re from the USA) have mostly grown in pack size; going back to Coca Cola, their first bottle was around 6 ounces (150ml) which seems tiny nowadays but if you’d offered the original consumers even a can sized portion they’d have thought it was too big. Now, we happily slurp down two or three times that amount or maybe even more.
The thing with small changes is that they’re just that – small.
We don’t really worry about them because they happen all the time.
But if you go out of your way to really embrace small changes and then the next size up of change, you’ll find that your resistance to change in general reduces.
Acknowledge your fear of change
It’s a cliche but “feel the fear and do it anyway” works a lot of the time.
Even just acknowledging your fear can take the sting out of it – saying to yourself “yes, I’m not at all happy about the change that I think is going to happen but so what” can work.
Think back to when you were younger – was the thought of changing school a good one or a bad one? Did your friends suddenly vanish into thin air when the final bell rang? Was the new school – full of giants – quite as scary as you thought it was going to be? Or were there unexpected benefits that made up for the change?
That’s often the case with change – our minds seem to almost automatically focus on the worst possible outcome and ignore any upsides.
But there are often upsides to change.
That phone in your pocket almost certainly has a camera built in. Maybe you even know how to use it so that you don’t miss all those shots and memories.
There are billions of photos being taken every day. All because of one small change to how a phone works.
That’s the case in lots of areas of our lives.
So make a point of looking out for those changes – maybe make a game of it – and instead of worrying about some things that may or may not be changing soon, focus on the things that are changing and that you’re happily accepting.
Because my guess is that there are lots of things that have changed while you’ve been alive that you’d never want to go back to.
For me, that includes central heating (rather than going from a warm living room to a freezing cold bedroom), a wider range of food than I ever dreamed of, television that’s in colour and has more than 2 channels, the internet, my personal phone/tracker device (I use Life360 but there lots of other options) to name just a few of the changes that have happening in my life time.
Almost all of those I’m happy with – I wouldn’t go back to a car with gears or a choke or what seemed like tin foil to heat the rear screen. Nor would I want to share a hard-wired phone line with my neighbour.
Take a moment to think about all the positive changes that have happened while you’ve been on this planet and then apply the same thinking and logic to those changes where you’re less accepting.
Chip away at the edges of your phobia about change and you’ll almost certainly find that it reduces the fear.
Talk about your fear of change
Often fears like it best when they’re confined to your mind. They can fester and breed because they’re not constrained.
Talking about your fear can be worrying at first but chances are that once you voice your fear of change you’ll find you’re not alone.
A face-to-face chat used to be the only way you could do this.
That still works very well – find an understanding friend who’ll act as a sounding board for your fears and help to reassure you. Have the chat in a relaxing place – maybe a coffee shop or somewhere else where you’re not likely to be hurried. And be open to what they have to say, even if you’re a bit distrustful about whether or not the advice will work in real life.
Or you could find a support forum or online chat room or even something like Twitter. They exist for almost any topic you care to imagine (and quite a few where it’s probably best left to other people’s imagination) and are available at any time of the day or night thanks to the changes that have been brought in by the internet – you’re no longer limited to a handful of people in your local town who are awake when your fear sets in.
Someone, somewhere in the world, will almost certainly be around and available to chat.
Which (of course) would have been nowhere near as easy if the internet hadn’t changed the world.
If none of that’s available to you, you could always talk to yourself. That used to be taken as a sign of impending madness but we’re so used to people talking into Bluetooth headsets that it’s now perfectly normal.
The mere act of vocalising things out loud changes them – the voices inside our heads are usually a lot scarier than hearing words spoken.
So try going for a walk and talking over your fear of change with yourself.
Flip things around
Things almost never have just one side.
OK, a shadow is two dimensional and only has one option. But very little else.
Take the opposite point of view, even if it’s not one you intend to go with.
Or instead of looking for all the downsides, make it a game to find as many upsides as possible to the change that’s worring you most.
There are almost always upsides to every change.
Even your darkest worries probably have at least a small upside lurking somewhere.
Because the world hasn’t ended and (for at least most of us most of the time) life goes on.
Search the internet to find how people in similar situations to the one you’re in (or think you might be in) have turned it to their advantage. The stories are everywhere and they’re often very uplifting.
Use hypnosis to overcome your fear of change
Because our fear of change works at a deep level, it’s often quickest and easiest to use a technique like hypnosis to combat the fear.
This is really easy to do – sit back, relax, and listen to a hypnosis track that will help you change the way you think and quell your fear of change.
It will help your mind to change with very little effort on your part.