People are afraid of change. Biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy developed General Systems Theory, which can explain many human behaviors, including the resistance to change. He used the term “homeostasis” to describe a family system’s “internal thermometer.” When something in the family system shifted, members would do everything possible to get these back to the “status quo.”
For instance, one family member getting sober means that all of the interactions between the members will have to change in some way. Success is defined differently for different people. In this situation, family members of the alcoholic, and perhaps the alcoholic him- or herself may define success as continued abstinence from alcohol. However, on some level, the spouse of the alcoholic may feel like he or she will no longer be needed to be the care-taker and keep the family together if alcohol is no longer a problem for the family to deal with. I have seen on numerous occasions clients who find ways to impede change from happening by maintaining the homeostasis. This may take the form of enabling (covering for the alcoholic at work, taking on all of the responsibilities in the house and so on). And it is not uncommon for relationships to fall apart after the alcoholic achieves sobriety.
The concept of homeostasis can be applied to individuals, as well as to a family as a whole. When any kind of reorganization is on the brink of occurring, there is a natural impulse to resist or impede change. We are creatures of habit. It’s a biological reaction to resist the unknown. It goes back to the fight or flight response. When there is a perception that there is some sort of threat in the environment, physically our bodies prepare to take action. Adrenaline kicks in and heart rate goes up. increases. Respiration increases as well. But what is a perceived threat? Does it have to be something frightening that we must run from it or fight it off in order to survive? Subconsciously can success be seen as a threat ?
Fear of success is like a bad habit. It sabotages movement forward. The sabotage can take various forms such as laziness, as a relapse after a period of sobriety, or it can be as simple as procrastination. For example, if you procrastinated and didn’t prepare for an exam, and then did poorly on it, attributing the bad grade to a lack of studying is easier than a lack of general mental ability (if you had indeed studied, and then still did badly.)
We can be on the brink of achieving our goals, and then “relapse” into our own personal homeostasis. At this brink we revert to old ways of behaving which have held us back from success time and time again in the past. It can be helpful to identift this cycle?.When do you sabotage yourself and relapse into homeostasis? What triggers this? When are you at your most vulnerable? What thoughts are going through your head? Identifying the thoughts that are preventing change from happening can be of key importance. A therapist can assist you in discovering the causes of your sabotage, as well as to provide you with the tools needed to challenge the thoughts and behaviors that are holding you back from reaching your goals. Don’t let your fears stand in your way.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”-Winston Churchill
Author: Dr. Masha Godkin,Psy.D, MFT is a professor of counseling psychology, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Ca. with an Online Therapy Practice, as well as a former child actor. One of her specialties is in addictive behavior and counseling those in the performing art professions. Visit http://www.onlinetherapywith-dr-masha.com to learn about the Online Therapy service options that are available.