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Sometimes it seems that just as we develop a comfortable groove, our world is turned upside down and we must learn new skills if we are to live with confidence and satisfaction. While it is a refrain we often would rather not hear, being alive means living with change. Because of life’s inevitable changeability, the happiest and most successful people are those who have learned the art of adaptation. This is a formidable skill to learn, but once we have mastered it, we find life’s chiaroscuro changes much easier to embrace. Our adaptability means we tackle with confidence work situations that require we train in unfamiliar areas; adaptability also means we bring grace and optimism to family demands that ask us to step beyond our current comfort zones. For some very rare people, change is always exhilarating, but for most of us change, especially unexpected change, unearths past experiences of perceived failure that can trigger our insecurities and activate a learned helplessness response we thought we’d outgrown long ago. When change knocks us off centre, Tapping for the space to cultivate trust in our creative problem solving abilities will help us to move forward with ease.
Tapping to Remind Ourselves of Our Resourcefulness
Regardless of the initial anxiety we feel at the mere thought of making yet more change, Tapping helps us to ground in our innate resourcefulness. Think of a baby lying on her back on a blanket with a toy just out of reach. All the wiggles and jiggles and ultimate shifts in body position demonstrate how resourceful we are even before we can talk or walk. The energy, optimism, and determination it takes for a baby to grasp a rattle for the first time never goes away, but it can be put to sleep should we experience enough adverse events during our most formative years. Tapping can be the first ring of a wake-up call to that innate, optimistic energy, a call that leads to conscious trust in our capabilities as problem solvers, and, ultimately, to more joy in meeting life’s inevitable challenges.
The best way to activate our problem solving energies is to recall the many ways in which we have successfully adapted in the past. In each instance of successful adaptation, we developed the skills we needed to move forward, to evolve. For example, each of us has developed social skills over time. If you doubt this, take a moment to befriend the socially awkward teen you used to be. Through trial and error, this gawky former self developed the skills necessary for nurturing friendships, holding down jobs, applying to college, and crafting positive life experiences with others. While it is true that we did not lose our adolescent awkwardness over night, greater social and professional ease came with the practice of some new skill, no matter how seemingly insignificant the practice may appear to be in the moment.
Remembering When . . .
When coaching clients who are facing imposed change or who choose change as a goal, my first coaching strategy is to ask them about previous successes. When the need or desire for change comes with anxiety and the fear of failure, reminding ourselves of past adaptations shifts our perspective to include our competence in making previous changes. That one small shift infuses the demands of life with positive energy. “Oh, yes, I did learn to drive,” says someone facing a new computer system in the work place, “just by going out each day with my instructor and trusting the process.” Another says, “I was able to move beyond my parents’ divorce by talking to friends and bonding with each of my parents separately.” As it usually happens, once we have learned an adaptive response and practiced it successfully, we tend to forget that we were ever anxious about failing in a particular area. Tapping helps us to remember our important learning successes because it soothes our present-moment anxiety and creates space for the shifts in viewpoint that restore trust in our adaptability.
The Importance of Narrative
Becoming aware of the stories we tell ourselves, especially as we are asked to or ask ourselves to change, is a vitally important skill that adds to our competence and confidence. After the Rwandan genocide, narrative therapists working with survivors developed story telling programs so that children and adults could see how unbreakable their connections were to the past in spite of the death of so many of their loved ones (visit http://narrativetherapycentre.com/narrative.html for an introduction into this non-pathologizing approach to gentling trauma). These therapists used the potent image of a tree to illustrate to traumatized people what remained to enrich their lives, despite the numerous people they lost.
Through this story telling, tree-of-life process, survivors discovered they still had all the traditions of their people as well as many vibrant memories of their beloved relatives. Best of all, they had their own bodies and emotions and thoughts as well as all the physical characteristics, skills, and talents their relatives had passed on them. As they realized they carried their loved ones forward through their own flesh, they could meet their new circumstances with a sense of the resourcefulness. Their sadness remained, but their stories helped them to express this sadness in song and dance and drawing. Their rage remained, but their rage was used to fuel ways of creating a different culture, a culture of peace and reconciliation.
Trusting Our Innate Resourcefulness
To create your own positive means of moving forward when faced with imposed or chosen change, begin by Tapping as you tell yourself your current story. Something as simple as “I worry about change” or whatever words accurately describe your feelings will begin to transform negative energy into a positive support. Fear, anxiety, and worry are often the beginning of a story that will have a very positive ending, one highlighting strong adaptive abilities and problem solving skills. Adding a story thread that includes past successes when faced with change will help to shift a potentially negative-change story into a positive one.
When you catch yourself in a negative story about change, simply tap on changing this story. Something like, “I used to believe I couldn’t change, but I’ve changed lots of times. I had to learn that new computer program, I had to adjust to Dad’s new physio routine, and I quit smoking (insert your actual changes here). All of those past successes show that I have changed in the past. If I changed in the past, I can change now.”
If after reading this you still doubt your ability to become comfortable with change, simply tap on that. “I don’t believe I can change successfully. I’m an old dog and I can’t learn new tricks. I am going to be stuck in this no-change zone forever.” Making extreme statements usually helps us to rediscover our misplaced sense of humour. And laughter, especially the sudden gusts that signify the absurd nature of these extremes, is a potent sign that energy is shifting and the change we want to manifest is imminent.
If doubt persists, create a list of all the things you’ve learned to do, from walking and talking and eating with utensils, to learning to play sports, to curbing your sweet tooth and developing healthy wellness habits. Read your list out loud as you tap, and feel the pride of accomplishment in all the successful changes you’ve made in your life. Before long, the current “problem” will morph into the current opportunity to learn something fresh and new. Not only will you summon the resources to help you with this learning, you will feel great about doing so. Always remember, changing isn’t all on you. Life support in the form of instruction manuals, helpful co-workers and friends, and the insights that come with reflection all support us in making the changes we want and need to make. When faced with change, tell yourself this story daily: “It isn’t all on me. I have lots of helpers. Life itself supports my desire for positive change.” I find Tapping on this story brings me remarkable peace of mind and heart no matter what change demands are surfacing in my life. May it be so for you.
Until next week
Jane Buchan, MA, AAMET Advanced Practitioner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-533-9277
Jane is a Learning Coach specializing in neutralizing cultural age, gender, and race constructs to support learners of every age. To engage her coaching services, please contact Jane by phone (802) 533-9277 or email, email@example.com. Be sure to put Coaching Query in the subject line.