Combatting Immunity to Change
“Change.” Even the slightest mention usually causes a feeling of horror, often followed by resistance because of the perceived fear or risk associated with it.
Why is it that any worthwhile self-help program starts with “admittance”?
As a brain-based coach leading a team of curious minds at APA Solutions, I’m always wondering, asking questions and doing research. Are self-help programs really successful? For example, why is it that Alcoholics Anonymous insists on admittance as the first step? What AA realized is that to create the behavioral change required for sobriety, one needs to go through a series of meaningful and impactful steps. It also recognized that a community, combined with engaged counselors, played a pivotal role in the overall success of the program.
As I pondered this concept and considered how it aligned with my WomanUP initiative, and subsequently our partnership with the SheCAN! network, I was struck by the similarities. If you have reached some type of hiccup in your general well-being as a woman, why does it take so long to get to admittance? Well, throw in our gender, guilt, spice it up with some hormones, and you get the mental picture. As a super woman myself, it wasn’t until I acquired a debilitating medical condition that I was forced to look inward. What I learned from my training along with the valued input from Erikson Neilans Ph.D. is that it’s basic brain functioning for the organ to be uncomfortable with change! After all, it is the leader and chief architect of the body.
Humans develop behaviors that are stored in our unconscious and act as an auto pilot. Trying to change the hardwiring that we’ve built over time is extremely difficult, which is why new concepts may cause an error message in our brain. These error messages can push people to become fearful and retreat to the threat part of their brain (a region that has 3x more real estate than reward). Once fear sets in, emotions can overcome one’s ability to be rational, and animal instincts take over. That means one thing: a threat response eliminates the capacity or opportunity for higher learning. Now let’s think of this natural occurrence in terms of personal or professional development. You can certainly understand why we embrace the status quo no matter how miserable we are.
So, the question becomes “where are you in the process of acceptance?”
While reviewing some research which focused on the ways in which women understand knowledge and authority (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1986), I uncovered these stages:
Silence: Women in this phase do not feel as if they have a voice. They “see themselves as remarkably powerless and dependent on others for survival.”
Received Knowledge: Women listen to the thoughts of others but are afraid to share their perspective. They find their thoughts similar to those around them and relationships are extremely important in this phase. They “listen to others for direction as well as for information.” They receive information but they are not the creators of the information.
Subjective Knowledge: Women look within themselves for answers. They see their experiences as valuable and have their constructed perspective become emergent.
Procedural Knowledge: Women begin to question in this phase and accept various ways of seeing and understanding the world. They “engage in conscious, deliberate, systematic analysis.”
Constructed Knowledge: Women “integrate intuitive knowledge with learned knowledge from others.” These women have developed a personal narrative, do not lose voice while listening to others, and use themselves to rise to new ways of thinking.
Our well-intended minds have created the layers that must be exposed to identify what is really going on. It’s protecting us from dealing with the uncertainty that change can bring. However, addressing the natural immunity to change by examining our armor of protection is key.
So, my dear SheCAN! friends, wherever you are is not where you need to stay and thanks to the SheCAN! organization, you have been provided a unique opportunity. There is a plethora of resources provided to help you become the best version of yourself. So, is the fear of change all in our head? You betcha! That’s why you’ll be provided the steps to overcome in this community through the counseling it provides.
Let SheCAN! be your break-through for your mental barriers and discover the keys to unlock successful professional and personal change.