Human beings do not change until it is too painful to keep doing the same thing. Discovering the implication of this distinction starts with remembering that each human being develops a unique psycho-emotional survival construct entirely dedicated to keeping things the same: your Box. Your Box logically deduces that if you have survived until now with the way things are, you will keep surviving as long as things stay the same. Your Box’s predisposition seeks comfort of the know and avoids the pain of change. Your Box’s safety reactions were built over years, decades of habitual grooves patterned-into your nervous system.
Considering the Box’s fear of the pain of changing its own survival habits, positive thinking, methods and motivation are weak forces. The pain of awareness, on the other hand, is a much more powerful force for change because the place from which life decisions are made is built out of awareness. The lack of awareness leaves us to make no new choice. Expansion of awareness gives us new options to choose from scary as they might be.
The pain of awareness is not to be confused with psycho-emotional pain. Psycho-emotional pain is created by your Box to keep you at home for your own survival. Awareness pain is the pain of expansion from being exposed to the unknown. Because your awareness expands it does not fit inside of your home anymore. You know this from trying to go home for the holidays after you have become more aware than your home context allows.
For decades, in your ‘comfort zone’, you might constantly feel depressed, lonely, guilty or shameful. At some point in your life, you figured out that being depressed (or anxious, self-doubting, hateful, resentful, hopeless, betrayed, …) was safer than setting one foot beyond known limits. Depression is a mixed emotion of sadness and anger. If you are depressed, your pure anger remains inaccessible to say ‘Stop’ or ‘No’, change things or make clear decisions. Your pure sadness also waits unavailable for you to connect heart to heart, grieve or let go. In a culture where it is not allowed to feel angry or sad (or scared or glad), it is a common survival mechanism to mix emotions to avoid experiencing the transformative energy and information of pure feelings. Similarly to depression, loneliness is a mixed emotion but of fear and sadness. Guilt and shame are also both mixed emotions of anger, sadness and fear. Mixed emotions are painful, sometimes to an unbearable degree. Strangely enough, suicide is more often than previously recognized chosen over transformation because home pain is familiar. Home pain gives you an identity. Who are you if you are not depressed? Who are you if you do not feel alone? What dangerous new adventures might you create if you did not constantly feel shame or guilt?
Home pain drains your life force to the degree that you are left with little to no vitality for leaving home.
A certain amount of activation energy is required to recognize that something completely different from home is possible right now. A candle wick will not start on fire until it is close enough to a burning match. The unlit candle stands for eternity alone in the dark. Until that surprising moment, you might have not even considered that you could have had a choice to leave home.
It can be that even as you are faced with choosing between the painful experience of home and the painful awareness that something else is possible, home wins. It wins because it is known. Whereas you don’t know how the transformational pain goes. You fearfully imagine that it will be bigger.
Therefore you will not change until the pain of not fulfilling your desire for something different becomes greater than the ordinary pain of home.
I want to share an inside trick, a trick I learned from Tom Sawyer. Tom Sawyer suddenly packs a few things into a cloth, ties it to the end of a stick, throws the stick onto his shoulder and leaves home to set out into a whole new world. The trick works because home will not change, you can always go back there. Whereas the opportunity to leave home can disappear buried under an avalanche of addictions to mediocrity. It is your spirit. To let your spirit suffocate and die may not be your true life wish.