This is a companion piece to the very popular “What it feels like when we change” published on this blog and elephant journal. In a previous piece I described what change might feel like in the moments when it is happening to us. Of course change is happening all the time. Our hearts beat, we breathe, we digest, time passes. But when something new is happening often we can experience it ‘live’.

Many people responded to my writing on the experience of change with their own descriptions of change. Change in small bites, crawling along. Incremental change.  All different types of change.

Clinically and personally, I have lately been fortunate enough to witness some dramatic but also subtle change in others. And I began to think about what it feels like when other people change.

Just as when we change there is no one way that we feel, our feelings in response to change in others are varied. Wildly varied. But with close attention to the people in our lives, we can experience their growth and healing. Their expansion and newfound solidity.

Here are some of my experiences when other people change:

I hear something new in their voice. A little more strength. Or less questioning of their right to speak.

They express emotion just a little (or a lot) more forcefully - anger, love, sadness, joy - it has more color and texture.

My heart skips a beat with excitement and possibility as I realize that I am not trapped in one way of being with this person but that together, not just me but together, we are always creating something new. Together we are healing.

I feel wildly angry, irritated, or annoyed at a limit, boundary or observation the person makes.

I feel afraid and insecure at a limit, boundary, or new expression from the other person.

I feel nervous or agitated around them or when thinking about them. I wonder about them.

They say something that startles me. Something I haven’t heard before from them.

They make a big change that they have been struggling with for a long time.

I feel loved in a new way - perhaps more directly or openheartedly.

This isn’t a prescriptive list. Sometimes irritation or agitation are responses to other things. But sometimes they are our response to change.

What I noticed as I wrote this list is that it is a combination of my own emotional experiences and my noticing of the other person. This is a live example of how our own growth changes the world.

When others change it evokes feelings in us. This gives us the opportunity to change. When I feel wild with anger at my friend’s new assertions I have the opportunity to explore that, express it, reflect on it - to live on the edge of it.  This is my chance to evolve in response to my friend's growth.

Change has a ripple effect. Our change into the world. And the change of others into us and the world.

The work that we do in healing and growing and exploring and reflecting: this work matters. It is not navel-gazing (a common critique) unless we make it so. The work of change is the work of healing what is wrong here. Each person’s work matters. Every day.

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