The Paralyzing Fear of Epic Change

Making a change, depending on its size, can be a very scary thing.

Your mind will "helpfully" come up with many reasons and distractions why you don't have the time, or the energy, or the resources to make that change... but the truth is.. if it's something you really, really want, deep down inside, those distractions won't be enough. They won't fill the hole that yearning has created in you. You are hungry for something more.

Not to mention the consequences of that change! "What will people say?!" "There will be rioting in the streets." "Everyone is going to think I'm a phony." "People are going to hate me"... Whatever extreme b*llsh*t your monkey mind is spewing.

I've experienced the great unknown of epic change a few times in my life. One of the scariest parts about it is that to incorporate this new thing into your life, it actually means getting rid of something that currently exists in your life. Which can be really hard to let go of. For example, the smaller change of going for a walk every morning after not moving for months means that you are giving up staying up too late on social media, or perhaps being super productive as soon as you wake up (like you really were anyways).

Where as the bigger change like deciding to leave a partner or change career paths or move to another part of the world can be WAYYYYYY scarier because you are saying goodbye to so many more 'knowns' in your life. It's not just one little habit that's changing - it's the world as you know it!

But you know what?

It is better on the other side.

If you have huge amounts of fear built up around a change you are thinking of but at the same time you CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT... That means it's time for you to move! It's your inner wisdom screaming at you to listen to what is best for you. While your scared ego tries to keep things "safe" and the same.

I've had this torture with relationships (especially unhealthy ones). You can see all the reasons your situation isn't working but you start to doubt anything could ever be better. "You wouldn't be able to find another partner... He is the love of your life... You've invested way too much time, money and energy into this relationship, it's too late to back out now... What will your family think?!.. What will his family think!?"... excuse after excuse.

It took my parents telling me "You know that you can leave, you are not trapped, and we are here for you." for me to even start to believe that was a real option.

My point is, I finally got out, and it sucked for a while.. but at the same time, there was so much peace inside of me. It felt right. I slowly took steps to rebuild my life in the direction that I wanted and it has been amazing since.

There is no doubt in my mind that it was the right decision for me at the time.

Looking back on it, it is SO OBVIOUS. My intuition was screaming at me for months but I was so scared about what that change actually meant and who I might be making mad. When in reality, it meant that all this internal conflict and disorder would calm down. It meant I would be happy. It meant I would be on track.

Three years later, I'm having new fear of change come up. Something I know will be good for me but at the same time is completely terrifying.

It's really hard when you are in it. I've heard Jess Lively refer to it as drowning. The ego and intuition are so aggressively at battle it is hard to think straight. Some days are exciting and full of possibilities and some days are hopeless and trying to just accept what is.

How do you get out of it?

I really don't think the internal confusion will stop until you do something to satisfy that desire for change. Maybe it doesn't have to be in the way you originally thought... is there a creative way to get the new thing and keep the old thing?

What has helped me, is identifying what the fears are that I am having. Asking myself, "What am I afraid of?" and "Why?" and "Why is that?" and "Why?" again and finally "and what else?". Once those fears are out of your head and on paper, it is much easier to look at them and judge their validity.

Another exercise that really helped put things into perspective is a good ol' fashioned Pros and Cons list. I divided a sheet into four quadrants. The top left is "Change I want to make", top right is "Not changing". Then the top half of the page is the "Pros" for doing those things, the bottom half of the page is the "Cons".

Writing it out this way made things pretty painstakingly clear. The Pros for doing the thing I want were all positive sentences, in line with my values. They sound amazing when read out loud and give me excited shivers. The cons for doing the thing I want were all fears with weak arguments.

The pros for not doing the thing I want are just buying more time and maintaining the status quo. Nothing exciting or spectacular there. The cons for not changing were full of things going against my values and feelings of authenticity.

In this matrix, it is pretty frickin' clear what the heart wants, and what the next step must be - that is, when I'm are ready to take it...

Your Intuition vs. Your Ego

This is a new concept for most people as we don't often take the time to really dive in and listen to what is going on inside of us.

The fact is, many times we can be internally conflicted. Having a desire to try something new, say take singing lessons, but also having so much fear and internal chatter about why you can't do that new thing that you are paralyzed - "you won't be good enough", "people will think you are a bad singer" etc. The two sides of this tug-of-war is your ego and your intuition. Many other names could be used for each - such as inner critic, saboteur, vampire voices, superego for your ego and inner wisdom, your captain, your truth for your intuition - just pick the term that you like best.

Your ego is the part of you that wants you to be liked, be successful, fit in, taken care of and actively goes out of it's way to give you "helpful" thoughts to make sure you are safe. Thoughts like 'you need to be thinner', 'people won't like you if you do x..', 'people will think you are stupid, if you ask that question', etc. These thoughts are doing a great job of keeping you safe from hypothetical ridicule and were also necessary when you were a child to act in ways your parents approved of.. but now they are less than useful and are actually holding you back from what you truly want.

Your intuition is your inner wisdom, the part of you that knows what you truly want and need and just wants you to feel at peace. Often thought of as your gut or heart instincts. Your intuition has a softer voice than your ego and it can be easier to ignore at first. But over time, if you are not listening, your intuition will start to make a fuss and you'll have more internal resistance about where you are. You'll have a strong longing or feeling that you need to be doing this other thing, but your ego is going to justify reasons why that doesn't make sense. That feeling isn't going to go away until you start trusting and listening to your intuition.

Taming your Ego:

Great, so all we need to do is ignore our egos and do what our intuition says to do? Yes, but it will definitely take some practice to get there. We often don't realize our ego is criticizing us until we take a step back and look at our thoughts. The key to getting out from your ego's grasp is to be able to identify when it is speaking, and justify why that doesn't make sense.

Ways to know if your ego is currently beating on you:

  1. Do you feel bad for no apparent reason?
  2. Are you making excuses or justifications for not doing something you want?
  3. Are you holding some part of you back in your work or social interactions?
  4. Are you worrying about some future event?

In these situations it is helpful to write down the thoughts that are coming up. You can even draw a picture of your ego or 'saboteur' that is speaking these thoughts to you. Giving it a face and a name will help separate the thoughts from you. Meditation is also very helpful to observe sabotaging thoughts.

Once you've identified the thoughts you can come up with valid arguments for why they have absolutely no merit. "Thank you for your concern Mr. Ego but that thought does not hold up because....".

There are other techniques as well for toning down your ego but the important parts are to call it out and move past it.

Tuning into your Intuition:

Many people are not in practice of listening to their intuition. Their ego has been so bossy for so long that they've accepted its criticism as truth. Your intuition has all the love and knowledge in the universe and will tell you exactly what you need to know when you talk to it.

You can start to practice listening to it by practicing 'gut' decisions. Instead of pondering for a long time, when someone says "What do you want to do tonight?" or "What flavour of ice cream would you like?" just pick whatever comes to you first. Practice it in the little decisions that don't have true consequences. The more you do this, the easier it will be to answer questions with your gut instinct. You'll be able to fill out personal questionnaires quickly because you just know the answers already.

Another exercise for connecting to your intuition would be to simply ask it a question. Sit quietly, with your feet on the floor, place your hands on your heart or over your gut (where ever you connect to more), close your eyes. Ask your question and WAIT. Don't try to answer it - that's the ego... just wait for what comes to you. It will feel peaceful and resonant. You may have to start off with yes or no questions and work your way up to open ended.

Another popular exercise would be to journal to your intuition. Write down a question and again wait for the answer to come. Write down your next question. Have a conversation with it. If you are not used to connecting to your feelings and inner wisdom this will feel cheesy at first - the response from your intuition may seem cheesy to you as well.. but it will be real.

Responses I've received from my intuition have been "go help people" when I asked "what do I do next?", and "to be happy" when I've asked it "what do I want". Messages that may not mean much to outsiders but have actually created a lot of inspiration and movement in my life.

I'm also new to learning about intuition and ego but I find it fascinating. These are the two biggest concepts lately that have really helped shape my behaviour and move me into showing up in the world in an authentic way. I'd love to hear about your experiences with either of them and if any of the exercises worked for you. Leave a comment!