Many times I have had clients who after months or years of self growth, go back to an old way of behaving. This could be calling an old boyfriend, girlfriend, pattern of eating or drinking that is usually destructive. The interesting part is that the “back tracking” often happens at a time when the client is changing or going through a period of personal expansion. Why then would they turn to something that would impede their progress?
Why? Because change, no matter how much we want it, invites both excitement and fear. The excitement is great. The fear? Unexpected. There is a vulnerability that occurs with change and with it a level of anxiety. We step out of our comfort zone and stretch in ways we have longed for. You would think that achieving what we have dreamed of would cause happiness. Well, it does but it also shifts the familiar emotional landscape of who we are and we can feel the loss of our identity. This is often when we want to turn to false yet familiar security blankets. Those old relationships and behaviors that defined who we were. We “know” ourselves with that person from our past or while doing that destructive behavior. There is fleeting comfort in immersing ourselves in the old way of being and it’s a way to manage the anxiety of change.
Next time you find yourself wanting to turn to old destructive patterns of behavior, ask yourself, does the fantasy of what it will give you match the reality of what it will give you? Will you get what you want or are you just hoping to get what you want? Then ask yourself what it is that you really looking for to feel less anxious or scared. Once you identify what it is you need, see if you can reach out or provide for yourself the healthy support you are really looking for.