Hundreds of new clients seek counseling with me each year asking for a change in their lives. Some want to change the quality of their relationships, some desire direction and some are looking for a change in the family dynamic -namely with their young children who seem to be ruling the roost or a spouse.
A percentage of these same clients struggle with the necessary discomfort that is required to generate a shift from the old to the new. In clinical terms, we call this resistance.
Deep change is hard for everyone because our brains favor the familiar, it likes patterns because when there is a pattern we know what to expect. Knowing what to expect means a lot for your primal parts of the brain.
Imagine a fresh, snow covered hill. You ride your sled down that hill over and over in the same groove and eventually it becomes hard to keep your sled out of the groove. Your brain operates in much the same way. It uses the same pathways that have been used over and over for most of your life.
“I sound like my mother!”
“My father would have done that!”
This is how we end up picking partners who are similar to our parents and how we find ourselves parenting closely to the way we were parented-
…that is, at least, if we aren’t intentional about picking up that sled, walking 10 paces to the right and setting up on the other side of the hill for a different kind of ride.
There’s a lot to pay attention to when you force a novel experience on to your brain. Think of driving for the first time; you had to pay attention to literally everything. Now that you’ve been driving for years your brain does not have to work as hard to stay in the lane. It picks up on outliers when need be but the rest of the time you just coast.
This is exactly what it is like to make changes in your life. It is a very foreign feeling at first and gets easier over an amazingly short amount of time.
Let’s talk about adults versus kids and think about some things you may encounter as you move towards making a change in your life with or without the help of a mental health counselor.
Adults AKA- You
If you are struggling to make a shift in your life, examine yourself to see if your subconscious finds any benefit to keeping things status quo. It could simply be that change is hard and you have not yet considered that you will be uncomfortable for only a short time OR your brain truly perceives some benefit.
For example, the change you desire may challenge some sort of basic belief system that will need to be addressed before any movement can happen. This can be as simple as a belief that you aren’t worthy of the change or as complicated as a cultural clash between your childhood and your adult life.
It really helps to have a good therapist to help you weed through figuring out why you are stuck.
All in all I am saying that it is OKAY for you to be uncomfortable. Build stamina around the discomfort of growth and don’t expect any less of your children.
Parents across America struggle imparting the rich lesson that comes with enduring discomfort for the better, which is robbing kiddos of an integral part of maturation.
If you find yourself secretly nodding your head, think about this…Maybe avoiding your child’s discomfort is less about how you think they will actually handle it and more about your discomfort with their being uncomfortable.
That is a lot of discomfort in one sentence!
All jokes aside, if you are looking for the tides of change to come your way because you are exhausted, smothered, overstimulated, at your whits end… you need to take a look at yourself as a parent and ask yourself:
What opportunities am I missing to teach my child how to be a well rounded human?
(& also not be a prisoner in my own home, have time with my spouse, like my kid, not feel like my kid is a job…)
Your child’s discomfort is okay and necessary! Tell them so as well. Set the expectation that it will pass as soon as they get used to xyz and when they leave the nest they will be more ready to take on the world. The best place to learn these lessons are in the comfort of a loving home.
In addition, you also need to ask yourself:
When do I enjoy my child, fully focused and unplugged from the hustle; when do they feel seen and heard?
This is HUGE! This is not a prescription for more work, just more QUALITY connection. This is true for children 0-100.
I have seen the most impactful change happen in homes that are able to master this.
A few examples include:
- Limiting electronics for the adults
- Surprising your child with an unexpected visit to their room to seek connection
- Using empathy during times of resistance and stress
Kid: I don’t want to brush my teeth!!!!”
Parent: “I could see why because you will have to stop playing.”