Most of the people in your life see you as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle fitting nicely into the big picture of their lives. When you make changes in your life, even if they’re positive changes, these people might panic, seeing that their perfect puzzle is ruined.
“Women who are undergoing changes are likely to experience ‘change back’ messages from their nearest and dearest,” says Martha Beck, “The messages come in many forms: sabotage, cold silence, shouted insults, refusal to cooperate. But all convey just one idea: ‘I don’t like what you’ve done. Go back to being the way you were.’ This might seem baffling in the face of positive achievements like losing weight, falling in love, or learning new ideas.”
How to Handle These Attacks and Win
Step 1: Pay respectful attention.
Try to avoid either fighting back or submitting. Simply listen to what the person is saying and remember that most likely their actions are driven by panic.
“Remember that whether you realize it or not, your actions may be forcing this friend to either make personal alterations or give up on “fitting” with you. Noticing their fear may calm you, and this may go a long way toward calming them,” says Martha.
Step 2: Take time to find your truth.
The feedback you’ve been given may be helpful or it may be complete nonsense. Now that you’ve paid attention, take the time to consider it. If it’s wholly or partly right, adjust your course accordingly. If not, trust yourself to continue on your journey despite others’ negative input.
Step 3: State your position for the record.
“If your change-back attacker is sober and in a reasonably receptive frame of mind, you may want to respond to her argument,” Martha advises, “Even when you’re dealing with a nasty, non-communicative person, stating your position may be a powerful step in your own development.”
Step 4: Unconditional Love
Martha Beck calls this the “secret weapon in the change wars.”
“At best, this approach will cause your adversaries to stop, ponder, and perhaps feel less scared of making their own improvements,” she says, “At worst, it will render you flexible, able to fit in with many people and social systems without getting stuck in any one position. The more you claim your own destiny, the easier it will be to love unconditionally. The more you love, the more comfortably you’ll fit in with all sorts of people. Ultimately, situations that once brought on horrendous change-back attacks, that once appeared to you as utterly unworkable puzzles, may end up barely fazing you at all.”