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Helping People Transform Unwelcome Change
Posted: 1/13/2011 | Guest Bloggers Comments
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Yesterday, I had the delight of interviewing Polly Young-Eisendrath on my radio show "A Conscious Life."  She wanted to share this article on unwelcome change with us. If you missed the radio show, click here to sign up for the show and access the recording.

"Helping People Transform Unwelcome Change" by Polly Young-Eisendrath

Unwelcome change disrupts the fabric of our lives and changes our deep context, leaving us feeling out of control. Human consciousness is always rooted in a context or fabric of shared meaning. When change – such as grave illness, financial loss, divorce, death of a loved one or natural catastrophe – disrupts our life context in a profound way, we must change our identity or we will become alienated, confused, withdrawn and/or ashamed. Complicated and non-adaptive grief responses such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), preoccupation with the event story, social withdrawal, self-blame, persistent separation distress, ruminations or “compulsory” grief, and/or a frozen story of loss are the typical outgrowths of an inability or refusal to change our identity after our life context has changed. In place of remaining engaged in what is still possible in our lives, we become immobilized, afraid and caught up in an anguished and restless response to our changed circumstances.

American ideals of independence have tended to persuade us to view our “security” as a personal accomplishment. When the circumstances of life snatch away a significant foundation of love, finances, health, home or hope, people often feel personally ashamed or bitterly blame others, complicating their adversity. The teachings of all branches of Buddhism encourage us to recognize and embrace our connection to a life contingent on changing circumstances and impermanence, making stability and security an ultimately illusory goal.

The Buddha taught that three fundamental spiritual laws underlay our everyday existence: (1) the universality of stress and adversity (i.e., bad things happen to everyone); (2) the condition of constant change that is the nature of our life and world; and (3) the fact of our complete interdependence, that we are always embedded in a context that lies largely out of our control. Acquaintance with these universal laws of stress, impermanence,  and embeddedness relieves our shame, blame and alienation when we deeply acknowledge that no one is exempt from them. Embracing these conditions, they become our natural teachers for remaining engaged in our lives, especially in times of yearning and anguish.

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