“Not until there is resistance to the compulsion, and blocking of the discharge reaction, does the undetermined element become conscious as ‘pain’.
~ Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id
Lately I have been thinking about change. It terrifies us, it thrills us, we chase and avoid it. Whatever our feelings, it is something we must undergo to reach our dreams.
For many, the biggest block to change is our thoughts and behaviors. We say we want to start a business, or exercise, or drink less; but in the end we just don’t.
As you know, I am a book nerd. I love reading from all sources to try to improve my understanding of human behaviors. This week, I came across the above quote from Freud. I think his statement perfectly highlights why change is so hard.
Let me break it down. We engage in many behaviors out of habit. Much of our life is lived on autopilot, or as Freud says ‘unconscious’. We get up, shower, eat one of our three breakfast options, go to work (usually the same route), come home, make one of 8 dinner options, do our evening routine, and go to bed. At no point are we uncomfortable.
When we seek to change our behavior, problems that have existed under the surface suddenly come up. Problems that are big and scary and much more difficult that simply eating less or taking a jog.
Take this example. Many of us eat to make ourselves feel better. We have a hard day, and we eat [insert food of choice]. In Freud’s view, we are using food as a way of ‘discharging’ the negative energy about our bad day. When we try to stop this behaviour, suddenly we aren’t getting that release any longer. Instead, we are forced to experience the pain we have been avoiding with food (or wine, or weed, or whatever else we use).
This is the point at which many of us fall down. We don’t want to feel the pain. We don’t want to do all of the work necessary to make the change. Like why we use food to make ourselves feel better. Like what we are eating chips to get away from. We just want the end result of eating healthier.
We want to cut straight from the goal to the result, without going through the discomfort of the work. The problem is that the work is how we achieve the result. We cannot have one without the other.
This is not meant to scare anyone off of change. Instead, it is meant to highlight that you are completely normal trying to go from goal to result. You are also totally normal for failing to do so.
Your dreams are more important than discomfort. It is worth the work, every time.