Do you fear change or do you embrace it ? The truth is that most people fear change and there is a very good reason why. The brain is programmed to prefer the familiar, the known, the comfortable and is wired to be wary of anything that takes us off the beaten track. There is a very simple explanation for this: in evolutionary terms we have been hard wired since the dawn of time to avoid or flee from danger and unfamiliar surroundings that could harm us and so today although the new situation may not be about to cause us any kind of physical harm; the idea that psychological harm of some kind may be looming, is enough to send out the same danger signals our ancestors received and acted upon, when finding themselves confronted with an unfamiliar wild beast.
This new series of articles will be taking a practical look at how you can best deal with any major changes in your life. Perhaps you are moving on from divorce, or have to deal with the death of a loved one, a huge job change, children leaving home, or retirement. Major lifestyle changes call for major strategies for navigating the transition smoothly. If you are feeling lost and finding it difficult to cope and adjust or alternatively you know someone else who is, then this series is for you.
General Strategies for dealing with change:
Before you attempt to deal with any major change in your life it is important to understand the mechanisms at work. In fact before change really takes place we go through a period called TRANSITION.
How long this period lasts depends on how well we manage the three phases of transition:
- Phase one: firmly closing the door on the past
- The neutral zone. Navigating the crocodile swamp of moving towards the future or being sucked back into the past.
- Opening a new door and making a fresh start.
Getting from phase one to phase three is no mean feat. Most people never even complete phase one , i.e. there is no real closure on whatever situation they are exiting from and the saddest part is that we are for the most part totally unaware that we haven’t closed the door fully on the past. We talk about moving on and making a new start as if it we as simple as putting fresh sheets on the bed. It isn’t! It’s hellishly difficult but unless you really and truly admit that a phase of your life has come to an end, you can never enter into phase two.
Let’s say you do manage to accomplish and exit phase one and are ready to start making the necessary adjustments that will help you move forward. You are still going to meet with daily resistance from the brain which will remind you that it was much more comfortable being in the old situation, try to push you backwards and deplete your energy and courage for experimenting with the new. This explains why so many people get sucked back into former or even new dysfunctional relationships only to end up with the very same problems they were trying to escape from. It’s a case of the devil you know……..
This is a dark and challenging murky lake where a crocodile can surface at any point, snap its metaphorical jaws and threaten your chances of success. This is the “twilight zone”, where will power is tested to the limit. Think of it as a sort of journey out of Hades, where once you find the exit the journey is only upwards to Mount Olympus.
Only when you have truly been through the exacting trials and tribulations of this phase and are still determined to move on, can you enter phase 3.
Once in phase 3, you then develop your new life plan (perhaps with the help of a life coach if you haven’t already enlisted their help in the first two phases) and you can be sure at this point that you are unlikely to be hindered in your future plans by the past rearing its head to stop you. In other words you can look Medusa in the eyes and NOT be turned to stone.
The past doesn’t disappear but it doesn’t have to be forever present and hinder us from having a successful future.
Next month we will start looking at particular issues kicking off with Coming out of Divorce.