It is a concept that you can find in Buddhist writings and Greek Philosophy. It is also part of current mindfulness and neuroscience on brain change. Nothing is guaranteed except change. This is an idea that I explore with my clients on a regular basis, because while nothing but change is guaranteed, it is almost guaranteed that human beings will struggle with change. We like our routines, our predictable experiences. We want to know what is coming at us next. We rely on our ability to plan responses.
But the truth is, no single situation is permanent. We are constantly growing and changing (even our tastebuds change every ten years or so). And really spending some time with the idea that nothing is permanent can bring some powerful psychological relief.
No Negative is Permanent
When we are in the middle of something painful, it can feel as though it completely controlling and defining our life. Pain is a temporary experience. Even life-altering pain, like losing a loved one, doesn’t remain at the same level forever. When I experienced my darkest moments, I was pretty sure that I would never be a happy, functional human being again. But I was wrong. It will never be okay to have gone through that. I will never lose the grief. But I don’t think about it every moment. My life is not about coping with that grief. That pain is part of my story, but it’s not the whole book.
Remembering that pain is temporary, and that we will move through it and come out on the other side, can give us the strength to endure this painful moment. The impermanence of pain can give us permission to hang in there, to look to the other side. It doesn’t mean that this current moment isn’t incredibly hard. It just reminds us that the current moment won’t last forever.
No Positive is Permanent
This may not seem as intuitively comforting as the idea that no negative is permanent. But stay with me. Often, when I am sitting with someone who is beginning to reconnect to positive experiences, I see them struggling. They are already anticipating the loss of that positive feeling or moment. And in their struggle to avoid that loss, they are missing the present moment and the actual feelings and experiences of that positive time.
When we accept that our positive experiences are temporary too, we make space to fully participate in those moments. To appreciate them for the gifts that they are. To show up to our relationships and our adventures. Acknowledging their temporary nature, instead of struggling to make them permanent, allows us to be present and soak up every bit of each good experience.
Coping with Change
So, here is a challenge for you. As you move through your week, try to identify positive and negative experiences. Pay attention to how long they last. And invite yourself to check in and see if an acceptance that nothing is permanent helps you release anxiety about difficulty experiences and increase enjoyment of positive experiences.