In my previous post about change I explain how change is really the only thing we can ever count on and it is indeed synonymous with reality. The Buddha called it the “impermanence of all things” and the Greek philosopher Herakleitos called it “the only constant”. Our world is constantly in a state of change, of flux and so are we. This means that there is also no constant self or unchanging identity.
Physically speaking we know that our cellular structure is always engaged in a cycle of death and rebirth. Skin cells dry up and fall away while new ones are created in their place. This also holds true for our stream of consciousness, our sense of self.
We are continuously changing our minds, opinions, values and behaviors due to internal and external factors. This can be quite a liberating thought as you don’t have to identify with your thoughts or even be limited by a certain idea of who you are.
I have told clients for years that I am not the sum of my past, rather infinite possibility. From this point on, I can go anywhere and do anything that I like. The only thing holding me back is my sense of a static identity, an unchanging self. This realization alone can help to puncture limiting beliefs I have about myself and to increase my self-acceptance.
But in the context of a relationship this can be difficult to consider.
You might have heard the cliche phrase: You are not the same person I met five years ago.
Of course I’m not! Considering what we just talked about I am not even the same person you met five seconds ago. I am a dynamic being, constantly changing. learning, moving forward. To expect that I would stay the same person you met five years ago is nothing short of ludicrous and quite frankly quite an unfair expectation.
Unfortunately what often happens in relationships is that we spend a portion of time at the very beginning of our love story, getting to know each other. We just met and this person in front of me is the most exciting and mysterious being for a time. Then, at some point, we kind of decide that we know each other. I have now made a complete picture in my minds who this person is, and I start the ridiculous and destructive process of holding the other person to this picture I created of them. I praise the behaviors that fit with the picture and I scold the behaviors that don’t. Either the other person feels stuck in a role they didn’t ask for, they feel taken for granted or they will more-or-less-consciously start hiding the natural state of change, which in turn leads to drifting apart.
Perhaps it is also not a coincidence that the beginning period of getting to know each other is also the time many call “the honeymoon period” where everything is rosy and lovely? What if that feeling comes from being curious and accepting of the other person as a dynamic creature? Could we then extend this honeymoon period for an unlimited time? There are usually no quick fixes, but I believe there are some things we can think about in order to be more real with each other.
- Accept that you are constantly changing. Your thoughts, sensations, emotions, needs and opinions are transient and always in a state of flux. This means that you are neither the you from yesterday nor the you of tomorrow.
- Accept that the same is true for your partner. Stay curious, forgiving, attentive, flexible and never stop getting to know this person. Celebrate their development, their growth and let him/her be real!
- Accept that since you are both changing you can never know how much time you have together. There is always a possibility that your lives take different directions. Don’t take each other for granted and enjoy the time you do have together.
Even though change is all around, and inside us, it is not always an easy fact to accept. As people we place a great deal of safety in things staying familiar and the same. For this reason change often seems scary, simply because it is unknown. But since we know that change is a constant, having a fear of change might be the most limiting fear we encounter in our lives. What does change mean to you and what can you do to make it your companion, whether it be in relationship or in general?