Therapist's Note: No matter how much you want to change, no matter how much joy waits for you on the other side, I can almost guarantee that the process is going to be painful at times. Working on a relationship can mean leaving behind familiar ways of protecting ourselves from getting hurt. Overcoming anxiety can mean erasing long-held, easy-to-come-by patterns of thinking. Counseling can support you in navigating the contrasts of loss and gain inherent in the change process.
True change involves loss.
(I wish it weren’t so.)
As we approach Easter, I’ve been thinking about tombs. Not bunnies, not jelly beans. The part that comes before all of that.
In the Christian tradition, long before any of us were born, long before any of us tried to change, there was this notion that perhaps the tomb and the womb are not all that different.
As the story goes, Easter really begins with Jesus crucified and placed in a tomb, covered by a stone and enclosed in darkness. Lifeless, gone.
But that’s not how the story ends. It is told that mysteriously, miraculously, from that same tomb Jesus was brought back to life. Resurrected, reborn. New life victorious over the shadow of death.
Whether or not you are a Christian, Easter illustrates the consistent, confounding interconnectedness of loss and newness of life. The tomb--the dark, uncertain in between of change--is also the birthplace for mysterious, miraculous newness to emerge victorious over the shadows of our lives.
No pain, no gain.
Winter makes way for the spring.
Dark before the dawn.
If we want something to be different, we need to be ready to say goodbye to something that already is. These might be things we are eager to say goodbye to: our tendency to worry too much, our fear of what others think of us, our habit of doing too much for others while neglecting ourselves. But just because we want to get rid of something about our current reality doesn’t mean it won’t be painful when we lay that part of ourselves in the tomb.
Feelings of sadness and grief and even longing for the ultimately undesirable past are normal parts of the change process. After all, if we had nothing to lose by moving forward, we would already be where we want to go. Letting go of the familiar, even when the familiar is uncomfortable, can involve just as much hard work as grabbing on to what we seek.
Often, this part of the change process can catch us off guard. We were expecting bunnies and jelly beans, not the tomb! We question this new thing we thought we wanted. We doubt our ability to do it. We feel foolish for even trying. We contemplate giving up. This part of change can feel heavy, as if an immovable boulder has been rolled in front of the opening that was just beginning to appear.
If you find yourself in a painful part of creating change, take heart. A new synthesis is coming. You are exactly where you need to be, but you’re not going to stay there.
Loss hurts as it carves open space within us: cavernous as a tomb.
Yet in the emptiness, in the uncertain darkness...new life is born.
For further reflection: What will you have to let go of in order to take another step towards the changes you want to make in your life?
Here you will find metaphors, images, reflections, and inspiration on the change process. Psychotherapy intersects with creativity, nature, and spirituality on these pages. You can start anywhere you'd like. You'll find a note on my thoughts as a therapist as well as a prompt for your own reflection at the beginning and end of each entry.
I'm a licensed therapist in private practice in Indianapolis who provides counseling to individuals and couples, particularly around issues of anxiety, adjustment, and relationship wellness.