When life doesn’t go according to OUR plans…stop & pause for effective change

pausing to effect change

When life doesn’t go according to OUR plans…

Perhaps you’ve gone ahead and made choices or changes – but there is a feeling like no matter what decision or movement ‘seemingly’ forward you make, the metaphorical door keeps getting shut in your face?


Ironically – to effect change, we need to pause

Paradoxically the underlying message is STOP.  Stop pushing for change and driving forward.  Perhaps observe the desire to move away from the uncomfortable painful feelings.  Pause, reflect and lean in a little more.  And listen.

It seems counter intuitive in our culture of instant pain relief and quick fix psychology to pause and stay with uncertainty or discomfort.  But there is wisdom in the pause and listen.  The wisdom is that we learn about what drives us, so we can make different decisions.  Decisions that serve the whole of us, not just part of us.


Can you can relate? 

You may feel some niggling or overt discomfort in your life and want this discomfort to change, or go away NOW – immediately.


The discomfort of the unknown

I call this discomfort the “void”, or “the unknown”.  It is the uncomfortable “in between” period of life – or what a friend of mine calls “Gods waiting room”.  Where things just don’t go according to our timing or plans.


There is opportunity in the unknown 

The Father of the modality of wholistic Gestalt Psychotherapy, Fritz Perls, refers to this experience as the “fertile void”.  Where, in this void, there is opportunity and possibility for anything.  That is, if we can learn to breath through the discomfort of the ‘not knowing’.

It is very important to seek out Psychotherapeutic or Psychological support when this “waiting room” period becomes unbearable.  You don’t have to do it alone while learning how to navigate this unknown void.


My recent relearning

Over the last 12 months I’ve had the experience of making plans, choices and changes, yet ‘my life’ having totally other plans to the ones I set out.  I don’t mean just a few decisions here and there, I mean mostly everything I chose to do, went askew.

At first this was agony and difficult not to fall into the victim role.  Yet, my reflex habit is to not stop trying.  I got up again, pushed harder and tried again. Then life had other plans…again and again.

Eventually I began to see the pattern and I slowed down to breath, pause, listen and learn.  And to be honest I began to giggle as I watched this pattern.  With more curiosity and self-compassion.

I, like most people I meet, find it challenging to stay with my own uncomfortable feelings and “the uncertainty” of this wild ride called life.

I like to set goals, tasks, write lists and make plans.  I like to sort things out and wrap up what I perceive to be a “dilemma” in a nice neat little box with a neat bow and file it away, or ship it off.  Tick, done, completed! But as I have learned and keep having to re-learn, it would seem life has her own plans.

And anything “uncomfortable” has always been a gift to learning more about myself.  So ultimately, I can learn to make decisions from the fullest awareness rather than by a reflex reaction of avoiding discomfort.


Our prehistoric brain

Our brains are actually not naturally wired for pausing & reflection.  The part of our brain (our limbic system) is risk adverse and easily takes control in uncomfortable situations.  We are neurologically wired for survival and running, not naturally pausing, breathing and reflecting while we assess the true risk in a situation.  So, we need to work at it. Again and again we need to practice activating the newer more evolved parts of our brain, which supports calm non-reactive decision making.  So we can learn to sit in the “fertile void” or “Gods waiting room” more easily.


How does this show up for you?

For you perhaps it may be the uncomfortable feelings associated with a loss of a relationship, role, identity? Or the discomfort associated with the body or life you knew so well before a health crisis or chronic pain?

The feelings associated with this can be confusing and feel unbearable.  As though we are cast adrift without any idea of what the journey ahead will look like.  We may want someone to “fix” us urgently, or we move to “fix” the another.  Anything we imagine that we can exert some control over.  Anything to take away the niggling discomfort and pain away of the “unknown”.


The paradox of change

My Psychotherapeutic training was primarily in the modality of Gestalt Psychotherapy where the Paradoxical Theory of Change states that the more you try to be something you’re not, the more you’ll stay right where you are. Change is an organic process that takes place as a side-effect of organismic growth.  In order for change to occur, first one must be allowed to be truly who they are.


And the Sufi mystic Rumi said:

“The cure for pain is in the pain” and

“move, but don’t move the way fear makes you move”


And as Psychologist and Buddhist teacher Tara Brach states:

“Fear x Resistance = Suffering”.

Where the more you resist the fear, push it under, run away from it or try to fix things so you don’t have to face it – the more it just takes over your whole sense of your identity.

Resistance actually  keeps the patterning of fear and non-change in place.

Whereas Fear x Full Loving Embodied Presence = Freedom.


How to do this? 

Begin by stopping, pausing and breathing.  Get into nature.  Notice your eating?  Are you taking good care of yourself and eating well and getting good sleep? Start by noticing how much compassion you are offering yourself.   Slow down to effect true change.


category: mental health, mindfulness


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