I can hear the cries of protest now. “I HATE CHANGE. I hate it with the fire of a thousand burning suns! How dare you tell me I don’t hate it.”
You don’t hate it. If you did, you’d be so paralyzed by indecision that you couldn’t function. Life *is* change and everything you do changes something about you and the world around you. We all know that, on some level.
What we hate is change we can’t control. We hate change we don’t approve of. We hate change that doesn’t benefit us. We *really* hate change that challenges our emotional safety net and makes us look inward to face things we’d really rather not admit about ourselves.
We’re fine with the changes we choose (or the ones that benefit us…tell me you wouldn’t be happy if you won a million dollars tomorrow). However, we would prefer to proceed through those changes in an environment of safety and comfort and predictability, at our own pace.
But the world doesn’t work that way. Unless we choose to go sit cross-legged on a mountaintop, living a life devoted to meditation, we have to deal with the changes we choose and the ones we don’t at the same time. Because the changes that are imposed on us from the outside don’t wait for the “right time” to happen. We don’t get to pick when a loved one gets sick or dies. We don’t decide when we get laid off. We don’t wake up in the morning and think, “You know, today would be a good day for the car to die because I’m mentally prepared!”
Given that the monkey of life isn’t going to stop and ask for your opinion before flinging poo at you, how do you deal?
- Spend an appropriate amount of time grieving the change. People may try to push you into acceptance before you’re ready because as I implied, change is cascading. They want you to be OK again so they can be OK again. But your process is your process and you have to go through all the steps to get where you’re going.
- Sit with it. Often, people feel compelled to deal with change by doing something to fix it, or make it go away. If it’s true that change is inevitable, it’s also true that what is different now will become routine in time. If meditation or prayer is your thing, it can come in handy at this juncture.
- Look to your foundations. This step calls for a little belly-button examination because while change will inevitably alter some things, there are other things that remain the same. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find these things. When your life is a country song, your truck’s broke down, your dog died, and your girl left you all in the space of a week, it’s hard not to think that everything is falling apart. But if you look hard enough, you will find constancy. It might be in friendship, extended family, or in your own resilience. What is still unchanged in your life?
- Have a mantra or a list of affirmations. This can be something as simple as “I will be OK.” “I can survive this.” “In time, this will be a memory.” Making a list of affirmations about the personal qualities you have that will help you through the change can help. “I am a resilient person.” “I am a strong person.” Etc. Put it on your computer screen, bathroom mirror, fridge, or wherever your eyes will fall on it during the day. Read the list out loud (trust me when I tell you this will feel foolish as hell, but it really does work…)
- Keep your perspective. When you’re in the thick of it, even minor changes can seem huge. It’s important to step back and analyze how important the change really is in the grand scheme of your life.
- Avoid confirmation bias. There’s something to be said for seeking out the company of others who are going through the same things you are. But at some point, group inertia can interfere with your personal growth and acceptance of change. Think of it as a cocktail hour with former co-workers who were all laid off from the same company. Are you exchanging leads and contacts and building each other up? Or are you bitching endlessly about the Unfairness of it All? If it’s the latter, you may need to avoid those people and conversations for a while.
I’ve had a lot of change happen during the last few months. Some small things, some that have rocked the foundations of my world. The above coping skills are some things I’ve learned along the way, and I hope they help you.
p.s. Do you have a coping strategy? Please share it in the comments.