The only way to make sense out of change
is to plunge into it,
move with it,
and join the dance.
It is almost a cliché, but the only constant in life is change. Nature is certainly a template to observe how nothing stays the same; the seasons change, and plants bloom and die. Some changes are dramatic and some are so minute that they aren't even noticeable. We age virtually imperceptibly day by day and yet at the same time so many of our cells die and are replenished daily, that we have an entirely new body every 7 years!
Even if we have the same relationship or the same job over a long period of time, it is not the same job or relationship as it was a few years ago. Individual and collective knowledge and beliefs change over time. Nothing is static.
Yet the human mind often wants to cling to the known, the familiar, the comfortable, the thing that has already been mastered. Fear of the unknown or of change is endemic in most humans, in part due to biological survival mechanisms we no longer need. Why would we want to change what is familiar and comfortable ( even though it has often stopped being satisfying)?
Yet we cannot stop it. We can stall change, but it's like putting a finger in the dam; it will only create a huge wave, a tsunami of change that may be very upsetting or destabilizing at some point if we don't go with the flow, plunge into the river. Many people put so much (often unconscious) energy into stopping change, that they end up depressed or anxious, or addicted to a substance or activity, to stop the flow that wants to happen, that needs to happen in their lives.
So as Alan Watts says so beautifully in the quote, why not plunge into change, move with it, join its dance? Take a deep breath and jump into the river, no longer attempting to swim upstream but going with the flow and trusting it will take you where you need to go. Why not get on the dance floor of life and dance yourself into the next phase? Take part in the change rather than resist it, and your depression will life, your anxiety will decrease, addictive substances and activities will lose their allure.
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley