The northeast has had quite a time these past few months, what with Hurricane Irene on Labor Day weekend, the “Arborgeddon” snow event Halloween weekend and now we are in the thick of the holiday season and all of the turmoil that it brings. This all has left me reflecting on routine and its importance in our lives.
Most of the emergency-tenored cacophony of late seems to have sprung from the interruption of peoples lives and its impact on their routines. No power, no school, no work, no heat, no parking at the mall (well, OK, that last one isn’t really so big – but when it’s coupled with the preceding few…). Interruption in our routine feels like our lives are being attacked by intruders.
The human capacity for adaptability is truly impressive. Unfortunately we still don’t like the discomfort that comes with all that adapting. Our penchant for routine, pattern and predictability serves us well when we are driving a car or learning to walk. It creates discomfort and upset when we aren’t wanting it or looking forward to it. Even small things, like wanting a new website or organizational policy. Yes, one may want the finished piece based on their observation of its effectiveness for other similar companies, but the discomfort in truly embracing the change and the shifting of power is harder than most of us give it credit. How often have we heard (or said?) “Yes, I do want it – but not that way”. At the end of the day, what we are really reacting to is a basic interruption in routine.
One of my most useful quotes comes from the halls of recovery. It states that, “Change will not happen until the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change”. I have used this in a previous post, and I find it amazing and strangely comforting to see that really, when we boil most discomfort down, it all has the same base elements. Our routine (way of thinking, responding, interacting, coping, moving about, existing) has been interrupted and we are uncomfortable. Learning to sit with – and through – discomfort is what therapy is all about.
It’s true that we are all so much more the same than different. Be it recovering from loss or trauma, addiction or job loss, corporate management change or personal familial interactions, policy or pattern, it’s the pain of the interruption of routine that bristles us the most. Like Linus above, a new shirt may be prickly and scratchy at first, but give it some time and it can become your new favorite.
This holiday season when you are finding yourself snapping at someone or reacting strongly over a small thing, sit back and reflect if what you’re really reacting to may be a shift or interruption in your routine.