by Alison Crosthwait
Alison Crosthwait is a transformational coach living in Toronto, Canada. She believes that healing herself is the most important part of her service and her journey of self-growth and understanding is long and varied. Her website/blog is available at www.alisoncrosthwait.com.
This article is composed of texts originally published on www.alisoncrosthwait.com and Elephant Journal.
We tend to think that change happens like magic – a switch flips and we are in love, rich, or no longer anxious. We fantasize about vacations of bliss. And when we arrive there is bliss and a sunburn and a frozen drink too many and, well, real life in all its glory.
Deep change involves bearing a process which we do not yet understand. It involves changing from one physical, emotional, and intellectual organization into another. It does not happen all at once but in increments, all the time, whether we want to or not.
Our existence in interaction with life is constantly changing. When change is something that we want, when change is something that we intentionally seek out, we still have to bear it. We have to bear when it happens and when it doesn’t. We have to bear what shape it takes. We have to bear its speed – fast, slow, or something in between.
What it feels like when I change?
Change is an interaction with something new. Over time, I have come to recognize change as it is happening – sometimes.
Sometimes my brain goes fuzzy or suddenly empty.
Sometimes I feel depleted. And thirsty. Like my psyche just had an intense massage.
Sometimes I feel jacked up and manic.
Sometimes I feel butterflies.
Sometimes my shame is activated and past regrets, mistakes, and vulnerabilities take over with an insatiable vengeance. When I can catch this I call it backlash.
Sometimes someone says something unexpected and I consciously try to take it in. To let it change my cells.
Sometimes I cry about something I have never cried about before.
Sometimes I have a dream or a fantasy and part of its meaning hits home and I know this is a marker of an incremental shift.
Sometimes someone in my life puts words to a change and I recognize it as true but previously unarticulated. In talking the change takes shape.
Sometimes I have an extra glass of wine that I don’t need or want. Later, I can identify this extra glass as a response to new feelings that seemed unmanageable even though unworded.
Some of these changes are about my conscious self. Some are about unconscious shifts that I cannot fully articulate.
And sometimes there is no perceptible sign of anything.
These are some of the ways that my particular body, mind, and soul respond to transformational work. By transformational work I mean intentional interactions with the new – in other people, in nature, in ideas, in the body.
When we seek out the new, we change in response.
What it feels like when other people change?
Clinically and personally, I have lately been fortunate enough to witness some dramatic but also subtle change in others. And I began to think about what it feels like when other people change. Just as when we change there is no one way that we feel, our feelings in response to change in others are varied. Wildly varied. But with close attention to the people in our lives, we can experience their growth and healing. Their expansion and newfound solidity.
Here are some of my experiences when other people change:
I hear something new in their voice. A little more strength. Or less questioning of their right to speak.
They express emotion just a little (or a lot) more forcefully – anger, love, sadness, joy – it has more color and texture.
My heart skips a beat with excitement and possibility as I realize that I am not trapped in one way of being with this person but that together, not just me but together, we are always creating something new. Together we are healing.
I feel wildly angry, irritated, or annoyed at a limit, boundary or observation the person makes.
I feel afraid and insecure at a limit, boundary, or new expression from the other person.
I feel nervous or agitated around them or when thinking about them. I wonder about them.
They say something that startles me. Something I haven’t heard before from them.
They make a big change that they have been struggling with for a long time.
I feel loved in a new way – perhaps more directly or openheartedly.
This isn’t a prescriptive list. Sometimes irritation or agitation are responses to other things. But sometimes they are our response to change. What I noticed as I wrote this list is that it is a combination of my own emotional experiences and my noticing of the other person. This is a live example of how our own growth changes the world.
When others change it evokes feelings in us. This gives us the opportunity to change. When I feel wild with anger at my friend’s new assertions I have the opportunity to explore that, express it, reflect on it – to live on the edge of it. This is my chance to evolve in response to my friend’s growth.
Change has a ripple effect. Our change into the world. And the change of others into us and the world. The work that we do in healing and growing and exploring and reflecting: this work matters. It is not navel-gazing (a common critique) unless we make it so. The work of change is the work of healing what is wrong here. Each person’s work matters.