understanding change

Understanding Change — Developing Coping Skills

Understanding change helps deal better with one of the fundamental processes of life.  Life is a series of changes.   So, learning to understand and manage its effects will help us avoid common problems and be more effective.  It will help us safeguard our health and wellness.

Scientific research suggests that most people follow similar patterns in the process of understanding change. We also experience the various hurdles.  How you respond to change is already hard-wired in your behavior depending on your personality, instincts, and overall mental health.

Most people realize on an intellectual level that change will unsettle and even make us uncomfortable.  We ignore these because we are focusing on the goal. So, we eagerly jump into investigating something new.  Or, we take a new job opportunity. Or perhaps life seems like we are missing something important.  So, we venture on our own spiritual path.  No changes too big for us to handle, right?

We “think” We Are Ready for the Effects of Change

Our first assumption is that we ‘think’ we are ready.  We even welcome the change.  Then, in the midst of change the emotional side ‘kicks in. We really weren’t expecting the overwhelming emotions change can generate.  And, it often brings up multiple emotions.  Fear about how the change will affect us is one of the most common. It brings up self-doubt about your ability to learn the new way.  Then there’s anger, betrayal, incompetence, loneliness, just to name a few others. Change brings up memories too, both the good and the bad. It can overwhelm even for the best planners, the toughest and smartest.  We simply forgot about all the emotional things change brings with it. Understanding change is more than an intellectual exercise.

We forget that we accepted this part of the mission because we didn’t anticipate it could be this overpowering. However, that’s a distant memory. And, it’s too late to turn back or stop now.  In many cases, we aren’t in control of the changes taking place, or the pace.  So, with this in mind, here are a few basic principles to keep in mind as we venture into the realm of any type of change.  It doesn’t matter whether the change is regarding work or personal situations.  Understanding change requires us to look inward.  It’s not just about understanding the change of the process, policy or practice.  It’s not just about a change in living arrangements or relationships. It includes the emotions, dreams, and memories that are somehow attaching themselves to the issue of the change.

Physical Pain

Yes, change can be physically painful. Psychosomatic pain is your body’s way of responding to the stress especially when you encounter new ideas conflicting with your current way of thinking or doing things. This is known as cognitive dissonance.

This internal conflict tends to bring everything to the surface.  Business and personal issues get tangled emotionally.  The result is that you “think” you are dealing with either a purely work or personal issue.  But, in reality, you can’t separate them.  You are one “whole” person.  As much as you’d like to keep work only at work or personal only at home, you can’t.  So, whatever emotional issues come it doesn’t matter the catalyst.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced when simultaneously holding two or more contradictory views, beliefs, ideas, or values. The best way to deal with this is to identify the specific areas of conflict.  Develop a plan of action to address or at least minimize the conflict.  Don’t try to ignore it.  Otherwise, it will manifest in other ways.  The discomfort is telling you that you have something that needs to be dealt with.

Emotional Distress

Any disruption to the status quo of your paradigm forces you to make mental adjustments. Your paradigm is your world view made up of all your beliefs about spiritual reality. When you mess with this filter you can easily upset your emotional equilibrium. Here’s our friend cognitive dissonance again.  It’s telling us the trying to balance mutually conflicting ideas causes emotional distress.

Emphasize the Why

To get comfortable with facing the unknown, you need to understand the “whys” behind the change.  If you don’t understand the “why” it’s hard to accept the new change. Sometimes the connection between what you think and what you believe isn’t immediately evident.

For example, at work, a new process is put in place affecting major changes in the way you work.  You think you understand the changes but continually find you are making mistakes.  This may have nothing to do with the work.  It’s your personal paradigm that is fighting to hold onto the old ways simply because you are comfortable with them.  Unless you address the issues within yourself it will take you a much longer time to adjust.

Consequently, your performance becomes an issue.  Thus, the cycle downward continues to more errors in judgment.  Your manager can’t understand why you’re having so much trouble.  Now your job in jeopardy.  So, hopefully, this example underscores the importance of uncovering the facts upon which your current paradigm is based.

Understanding the “why” goes far beyond the reasons for the superficial change in external things or situations.  Change of any kind that affects your world in a major way has a ripple effect on your whole health and wellbeing.

Get Comfortable with Unknowns

Once you understand all the reasons behind the why then you are better able to move forward.  Now you can accept both the internal and external effects.  Accepting these changes isn’t as simple as snapping your fingers.  You must decide to keep the previous paradigm intact despite evidence to the contrary. Or, decide to venture into unknown territory leaving behind beliefs and values which may be anchors for your paradigm.  You must learn to be comfortable with unknown territory.  In fact, this is a great strategy for life in general.  It’s the modern version of the Buddist idea of non-attachment.  That is, don’t let things become anchors you can’t cut and leave behind.

Partner with the Positive

To feel confident and move forward and thrive in the change, you need the right information, skills, and support. Find other people who despite the unknowns are consistently positive.  Yes, everyone gets frustrated and down sometimes.  However, you want to seek out people who can help you through the obstacles.

Anxiety, self-doubt, and depression are often a part of our natural response to change. Your support system is vital in dealing with this aspect. Don’t try to go it alone.  Remember, 95% of our response is driven by our perceptions, not necessarily reality.  Understanding change is both intellectual and emotional.  Positive emotional support goes a long way.

Understanding Change Takes Time & Repetition

Everyone processes effects of change at a different rate.  The emotional effects of change can temporarily reduce our ability to process information by up to 80%. So, it’s important to take your time when confronting ideas conflicting with your current paradigm. Be gentle with yourself.  Be gentle with others too.  The change may be a small one but if you have a lot of emotions attached, it’s huge for you. Ask questions.  Repetition is one of the keys to understanding change and the issues with it.  Ask yourself “why am I feeling this?”

Our reading ability can drop to a 4th-grade level during times of change. Again, be gentle and patient with yourself. Take a ‘time out’ from the hard inner work to simply enjoy life. Being able to spend time in nature, even just a few minutes, can help. Meditate. Spend time in your own creative hobbies.  Learn basic seated and walking mindfulness meditation techniques, and use them.  Learn how beneficial it is just to be in nature (Forest Bathing).

As you can see the transformative process can be challenging but the rewards are worth it. We are drawn to the spiritual because of a common desire for spiritual exploration.  If you find yourself slipping into physical or emotional distress take a timeout.  Talk with people so that they understand you are having issues with “change” not necessarily with the people, the processes or the organization.

In Conclusion

Understanding change involves both the external issue and internal effects.  The best outcomes are found when you start in a healthy state of mind. That is, 1) when you are not under mental stress, 2) in good health and 3) you are functioning in the healthy range of your personality.

So, in many cases change will arrive when we aren’t fully ready.  We “assume” we are ready. This is why reviewing how change affects us will help you overcome the hurdles. Also, it’s helpful if you can partner with people with an overall positive outlook on life.  If the situation allows for it, take some time to process.  This will help you regain emotional equilibrium.

If this article resonates, there are more on our blog.  Also, you may be interested in learning about our blended learning process.  This is our curriculum which we use to teach several mind-expanding tools.  It also aligns the Hero’s Journey.  This is the term Joseph Campbell gave the pattern of consciousness development.  Our learning process is available in two forms.  You can take part in the virtual learning module or in our workshops.

While you are here please also check out our page FAQ for information about our mission.  And, please consider donating to support our mission of providing these ancient spiritual development tools.

Image by Unsplash.

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