Everyone experiences their own level of fear of change. That’s why comfort zones exist. You’re not alone in these feelings surrounding change. In fact, neuroscience has shown that uncertainty feels similar to failure in our brains. That’s why so many people would rather avoid change because of how uncomfortable the associated feelings can be.
While it’s natural to feel that change is scary, some people may be dealing with something more serious. That something more is called metathesiophobia, and it’s such an intense fear of change that it can be paralyzing and very hard to live with.
We will look at what it means to fear change, common symptoms of metathesiophobia, how to live with the fear of change, and methods to overcome such feelings.
What is Fear of Change?
Labeled metathesiophobia, this level of fearing change causes persistent unrealistic and intense anxiety when facing new situations or experiences.
Common Symptoms of Metathesiophobia
Those who have metathesiophobia may experience:
Examples of a Fear of Change
There are many different life experiences where people suffer from a fear of change rather than choosing to make the change, even when making the change is the better decision.
For example, a person may choose to stay in a toxic relationship because they are scared of the alternative of being single or having to go on dates to find a new partner.
Another example is when people stay put in jobs that make them miserable or leave them feeling unsatisfied because they are scared to start a new job.
As you can see, the optimal solution would be to move on and try something new. But, when you’re stuck in a situation and have metathesiophobia, you cannot see so clearly.
Why Do We Fear Change?
We fear change because it means that outcomes are unknown. Our brains are designed to find peace in knowing. When we don’t know what will happen, we make up scenarios and, in turn, create worry.
Humans find it hard to move on when something known comes to an end. The fear of failure also comes into play to create a fear of change. If we don’t know how something will turn out, we may rather not try because the outcome could be bad.
Trying something new becomes a risk.
Where Does Fear of Change Come From?
The fear of change can stem from childhood experiences, familial views, personal outlooks, current conditions, and even just the way people are programmed.
For example, if someone grows up in a household that takes a negative worldview and is filled with cynicism, this could breed fear and anxiety over trying something new. This is especially common if your parents have dealt with trauma, abuse or poverty. Their experiences may have created a worldview that promotes thinking that all paths are dangerous and filled with bad outcomes. In that way, you have become programmed to be jaded and cynical as well.
Instead, it becomes easier to stick with what is known.
Moreso, humans are conditioned and naturally programmed to like to be in control. It’s evolutionary. So, the fear of change is both an outcome of nature and nurture.
That being said, it can be managed and altered.
It takes work to realize that at some point in life, everything was once an unknown. It takes courage and action to move toward a path of positivity and beneficial outcomes. That’s why it’s so necessary to work towards a mindset that can welcome and embrace change.
Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash
Ways to Overcome the Fear of Change
Here are some tried and true ways to help you overcome the fear of change. Everyone needs their own practice to find the right solution, but these ideas are a good starting place to find what works for you:
1. Try hypnotherapy:
The fear of change is woven in one’s psyche. Hypnotherapy can help locate the place where it stems and override the feeling.
2. More therapies:
There are also different types of therapies that can help relieve the fear of change. Group therapy, talk therapy, neuro-linguistic therapy, behavior therapy, and writing your feelings down are all ways you can use therapy to aid in overcoming this phobia.
3. Embrace change and vulnerability:
Being vulnerable puts you in a place where you can face your fears. It’s accepting that you may not have control, but you can overcome and manage any circumstance or situation you face. When you are able to welcome change (with all its potential good and bad), you can regain a sense of power.
4. Break things up into smaller pieces:
You don’t have to work in extremes. For example, you may have many aspects of your life that will require change — from choosing your major, to finding the right job, to attending online or traditional college, picking a life partner, and more. Trying to face all these changes at once is undoubtedly overwhelming. Instead, break things down into smaller pieces. So, if you want to choose your college major, start by writing down what you like to do and what you’re interested in. Then, consider your future and what you may want as your profession. Next, you can approach this decision rationally and build up to making the choice.
5. Know your why:
By defining your purpose, you can diminish your fear of change. If you don’t know what you want, then any decision can be scary. But if you first understand your “why,” then when you have to make decisions or a change, you can ask yourself if it will align with your purpose. This can help to eliminate options that don’t work towards achieving goals.
6. Have hopes for the best and plans for the worst case:
While you can’t always control for outcomes, you can have plans. Know what you will do if something fails miserably so you can reduce the consequences as much as possible. And, to keep a positive outlook, hope for the best because your positive energy can help to create positive outcomes.
7. Surround yourself with supporters:
In life, you’ll always have both negative and positive people around you. Try to recognize critics and cynical people and quiet their impact on your mind. Instead, leverage the people in your life who offer support and help to guide you in the right direction.
8. Practice “What if” positively:
Often times, when we don’t know what will happen, we default to the worst-case scenarios. Instead, you can practice to ask yourself, “what if it works out?” to consider the potential good outcomes that can occur. In this way, you can help the fear of change fade away.
9. Practice repetition:
Like an athlete’s muscle memory, you can train your brain to follow a path of positive feedback rather than a negative feedback loop. You have to embrace change and remind yourself of all the times you made a change and it worked out for the better. That way, you can condition your brain to embrace change rather than fear it.
10. Reward yourself:
When you make a change, you have to find ways to reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything tangible. You can train your mind to believe you’re gaining a new positive reward, even if you are removing something from your life.
11. Ask the right questions:
Ask yourself what you are so afraid of before embarking on any change. You can then write down the potential outcomes and aspects you fear most. From this list, you can do some research to mitigate these results. Knowing what you fear will allow you to overcome the fear and approach change rationally.
12. Be present:
While the past can be a teacher, you need to focus on where you are now to move forward. Use the information you have in the here and now to make decisions based on your current situation. Living in the future is unknown and adds to anxiety. Being in the now opens the door to opportunity.
The Stages of Change and How to Process Them
All change works goes through four steps.
This is where we anticipate what can happen from change. It feels exciting.
- Embrace these feelings for as long as they last and try to remind yourself of them during the next step. Write down your purpose and how this change can help you achieve goals. That way, you can refer back to this when you go through any anxious phases that follow.
The moment things turn worse before they get better. This is where anxiety and the fear of change rear their heads.
- This is the step at which you should practice the above to overcome. You can write down what potential outcomes are, rely on support systems, and train your brain to embrace change by allowing yourself to feel vulnerable.
The benefits and positive outcomes start to show.
- Reward yourself for making the change and see how much good has come from it all!
The new change becomes your norm.
- Back to business as usual. Remember, you will have to face change again and this change will soon become your new normal, too.
Bringing It All Together
It’s human nature to fear change. Our brains are wired to like to be in control and know what is happening and when it is happening. This is for survival and protection.
However, life is unpredictable. As such, it’s important to learn to accept the unknown and practice a positive mindset when approaching change.
At some point or another, everyone will experience the fear of change, so hopefully some of the above tips and tricks can help overcome such fear and lead you to take action!