Change Factors

Fear of Change by Byron Darden

The fear of change, known as metathesiophobia or neophobia, is the discomfort or anxiety people feel when they anticipate alterations in their familiar environment or routines. It’s a common human reaction as change often brings uncertainty and the unknown, causing unease.

This fear can appear in different ways, from mild discomfort to intense anxiety. When we fear change, we may resist or avoid new elements in our lives or systems of which we are a part. We may be driven by a desire to maintain the current state because we fear negative outcomes.

The fear of change is a complex emotion influenced by personal experiences, personality traits, cultural background, indoctrination, and the nature of the change itself. Understanding and addressing this fear is crucial for personal development, organizational management, and societal progress since change is a constant and inevitable part of life.

This fear of the unknown is often rooted in various factors:

  • Stepping Outside one’s comfort zone: A key principle in my coaching as I’ve been coaching clients to do this for over 20 years. Learning from years of examples too numerous to count, I’ve discovered that doing so allows us to grow and develop new skills, ways of thinking, and approaches to problem-solving. Stirring things up serves as a path through transitions. 
  • Loss of control is a fascinating concept given the only thing we have control of is our response to life as it happens. Even though I know this all too well, I still get caught up in the ‘need to control’ mindset which I find is an ineffective use of time and energy.
  • Fear of failure can stop us mostly because of our belief that we are unworthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. It would be great to have the opportunity to sit down with a group of close friends and have them remind us why they are in our lives. Should failure be true, why would they stick around? I recall the 1991 movie Soapdish when Sally Field’s character, Maggie, the actress, conspired with one of her friends to go to the local mall and pretend to be a fan who spots her on the escalator, making a big deal about the star being out in public. It was a boost to her ego and emotional grounding that afforded her the ability to return to her life with more confidence.
  • Lack of confidence is a constant companion we learn to shake over and over again. It is a process much like learning to figure skate or learning to meditate. It is through repetition that we learn to master whatever it is we wish to accomplish. It can be seen as a test of our ability to overcome discomfort. Yet the road to overcome discomfort is to feel the fear and do it anyway. Much the same way, we will find discomfort in healing and feel discomfort should we choose not to heal. Either way, there will be discomfort. The difference is how that discomfort will grow in negative ways should we choose not to heal. 
  • Break in routine or predictability is not easy for most of us. We find this in the patterns we develop neurologically as the synapses connect our patterns of thinking, behaving, speaking, and reacting to any one of these or all four.
  • Loss or change of social dynamics is something anyone experiences from time to time, particularly when we move from one geographical location to another. I know this for myself to be true as I’ve lived in nine different places in my life. 
  • Past trauma can trigger the fight, flight, freeze, fawn, or friend reactions. I urge you to explore our January 2024 blog on Trauma.
  • Cultural factors can play a role in adapting to change, especially when the change goes against our cultural norms.
  • Overwhelm is a recognized response to dealing with the fear that comes with the unknown. I speak to this in my November 2023 blog on Leadership and Resilience. What can be comforting in the midst of one’s overwhelm is the fact that the breakdowns we face when things get tough at the office or at home are evidence that a breakthrough is about to occur. When you think about it, our entire being is responding to what is happening to us. Which is significantly informed by our neurological patterns that sometimes send us down the rabbit hole of anxiety.
  • Uncertainty about the future is a concern for many of us . The best advice I can give here is to keep learning and growing and focus on the present while preparing for the future. Action might involve continuing education and networking to ensure you are aware of opportunities.

Click here to learn how to Reframe Your Beliefs.