Paul Hawken “Natural Capitalism”, Yoga Journal, October 1994
After the revolution in Iran, my husband’s family followed us to the United States to escape the Iran-Iraq war. Many young boys were drafted and killed in the war. Boys over the age of 13 were not allowed to leave Iran because they were the next generation to fight. My husband had two nephews who were just young enough to be allowed out of the country. He wanted to save them so we signed papers to accept financial responsibility for the family. They lived with us for several years until they were able to live on their own. They arrived when our son was only a few months old. My husband had just left his job to start a new business that he would eventually turn over to his family. I worked full-time and supported everyone. I was caving in from the pressure of motherhood, the extended family living in my home, and the financial responsibility for everyone. I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt trapped in my life.
Any one of these changes would have been enough to upset anyone’s life, but this combination was over-turning the proverbial applecart of my life. My husband and I were having a hard time balancing everything, and our stress was beyond measure. We were in constant conflict with each other and the rest of the family. My little boy was surrounded with this jarring energy. I had to do something about this situation, especially for my sanity.
My job offered an Employee Assistance Program, and one of my friends recommended that I check it out. That was my first exposure to mental health therapy and the concept of self-awareness. For the first time I was actually examining my underlying assumptions about myself, marriage, relationships, family, duty, and motherhood. I began to read many self-help books and as my awareness grew, so did my desperate need to change my life.
I started to question our cultural and family assumptions. I challenged the ways we did things. I spoke my mind more often. My family didn’t know how to react. My in-laws were shocked because I was not behaving like a dutiful Iranian woman and just live with the situation. They did not say anything to me directly, but pressured my husband to correct my behavior. He felt the pressure and his reaction was to stay at work and away from home as long as he could.
He became more and more frustrated. He did not like my therapist and all the changes that were resulting from my new self-awareness. I remember one day we were arguing when he screamed, “When are you going to stop reading these books? When are you going to come back to your senses? When are you going to stop changing?” I looked at him and emphatically replied, “When I die!”
Change has a ripple effect. When you make changes in your life, you affect others, especially those people intertwined in your life. Those who are affected most are those closest to you whom you love best. They are used to behaviors that they recognize and are comfortable with. They want to keep things the way they are. When you choose to shift your position, you no longer occupy the same space in the relationship. So to keep the equilibrium, they can either shift with you or try to pull you back. Changeback pressure is their resistance to your actions. This is normal behavior and you should not be surprised if the change you are making is challenged or questioned.
Depending on how others perceive your changes and how their perception affects them, they may resist accepting the change and might pressure you to change back. If the change you are introducing is a major change, you can expect them to go through their own cycle of change. Everything that you learned about change now applies to them as they work through their own issues.
For you, changeback pressure is yet another element of change to deal with. You have to think about how you affect those you care about. You need to balance being true to yourself and caring for your loved ones. This is a balancing act that can influence the outcome greatly. Transformational change can test your relationships to the limit. But your bonds can actually strengthen—if you remember to communicate your thoughts and feelings, ask for support, and give your support to the loved ones affected by your change. If you want them to shift with you, you have to give them room to move, too.
Here are 8 ways to support others through change
- Be aware of your own behavior and attitude—these elements impact how others react to you.
- Be tolerant of others’ emotional responses even if these are different from yours.
- Choose your battles carefully. Let go of little things.
- Allow flexibility when you can. The answers are found when you are not stuck in one place.
- Keep your sense of humor and add more humor to your life to lower the tension.
- Practice and promote good stress relief techniques.
- Practice and promote authentic and non-blaming communication techniques.
- Invite affected others to join you as you invent the future instead of redesigning the past.
Excerpt from “Change Thrivers – Your Resource Guide for Making Change Work” by Afsaneh Noori