Why Is It So Difficult To Change
Updated: Nov 23, 2022
WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO CHANGE?
When we have a nervous system dominated by freeze, we are highly invested in certain internal dynamics staying the same, because our entire sense of safety depends on it.
If our system has been locked in a chronic cycle of trauma responses for years, with all the symptoms and the difficulties that come with this, we may well long for change at one level...but, historically, change has often brought an increase in suffering rather than relief – more overwhelm, more dysregulation, more disappointment – so we are also very wary of change, very guarded against it.
Freeze is what came to the rescue at times of severe, overwhelming dysregulation - in effect, locking off the highly charged fight/flight stress responses we were unable to process, in order to enable the rest of the body to continue with ‘normal’ functioning.
This accommodation – high dysregulation sequestered away in the tissues with the rest of the system functioning around it – is the way the body found to maintain some kind of equilibrium...albeit a rather precarious one at times, and one that came at a high cost in terms of our well-being.
Nevertheless, in terms of survival, it worked, and subconsciously we sense that to disrupt this equilibrium could well lead to more dysregulation - in the short term at least. It’s likely we already feel overwhelmed as it is so, of course, the last thing part of us wants is to risk adding to our burden.
We might have tried many approaches over the years, been to see multiple therapists in the hope of obtaining some relief from the way we feel. Those therapists may have provided some help and support but will also – often with the best of intentions – have made the situation worse to some degree if they failed to appreciate the sometimes glacial pace at which a traumatized person’s nervous system needs the work to proceed in order to make it bearable and safe enough to move forward.
It’s a tricky balance to strike, because the person themselves may be frustrated, often impatient to gain some relief from the intolerable state of affairs with which they have been living for so long. Part of the therapist’s job is to bear the brunt of the client’s impatience, whilst providing reassurance and acting as an advocate for the traumatised, frozen parts of the client, which will easily become overwhelmed and withdraw, or shut down if the work proceeds too quickly.
This is why we need to move slowly, a little bit at a time...so that healing feels manageable...so that we have a good chance of experiencing success in this high stakes endeavour we are undertaking. If we are able to successfully navigate the process of allowing some of the suppressed charge in the system to come back online, what we start to discover is that – along with some very challenging feelings like terror, overwhelm, rage – we also come into contact again with our own aliveness. The energy that is released can also become energy for living.