When your world has been disturbed

Wood Block Print of a giant wave by artist Hokusai.

It’s crazy out there.

President Trump’s unpredictability, conversations about race and racism and what it means to be a person of color in North America, changes and changes back in healthcare and tax codes and weather patterns and immigration law, and changes closer to home for each of us have us all stirred up. How do we make it through?

When I ask myself “through what, exactly?” I have to recognize first that these changes that are affecting all of us in the United States are communal experiences that started with personal, individual experiences of change.

This article begins a series on change.

  1. Our communal experience of change
  2. Our Individual experiences of change — getting through the curve, climbing out, investing in effort and energy through gratitude and presence.
  3. How LONG it takes for change to happen, and whether or not we can force someone else through the cycle fast.

The series is going to make some use of this change model:

Depicts a curve that begins at the top left, then dips down after a slight rise. a horizontal 'water line' appears across the middle of the graph. The curve dips down below the water line and then climbs back up to the right. Five stages are labeled: Uninformed optimism, Informed pessimism, Valley of Despair (which contains a choice of whether to give up or stick it out), Informed optimism, and finally success and fulfilment.
The Emotional Cycle of Change

Because I’ve found this model to be so helpful for understanding my own personal reactions to change, I’ll use it to help us orient to what’s happening in change. To get to know it, let’s take the example of getting married or moving in together.

When we take that plunge, we start with a lot of excitement and optimism. This is so great! I get to wake up with this person every day! I’m committed to them; they’re committed to me, and life is wonderful! Eventually, however, things take a turn. Whether days, weeks, or months later, eventually we hit reality. The honeymoon is over.

We start to realize it’s hard. The rose-colored glasses are gone. In their place are lenses that make everything seem like crap. And we come to a place where we have a decision to make. Am I going to stick this out and put the work in? Or am I going to walk away?

It’s a choice everyone gets. If you choose to walk away, your experience with this particular change curve is over, and you start another one. If you recommit, then you stay with it until you build a more seasoned optimism. You recognize there are problems, but there are also solutions and benefits, and overall it’s okay. Success comes after that.

This diagram provides us with a fantastic map for a single change. However, modern life means tons of changes all at once. You are at every point along that curve. You are excited about something that is about to begin or has just begun, and yet disappointed that something didn’t turn out the way you hoped. You are discouraged that something seems hopelessly lost, and also wondering if you should walk away or keep trying. Somewhere in your life, you are realizing that it’s not so bad, and yet somewhere else, you are saying, “pshaw, that’s no biggie. I handled it.”

You are at every point of this curve all the time because of the numbers of changes happening all the time in our lives, and this pace of change leads to overwhelm. 

Until next time, I invite you to consider the changes you are experiencing right now.

Leave me a comment below! How does the emotional cycle of change help you to understand what you have experienced and anticipate what’s coming next?

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  1. Pingback: Falling Down The Emotional Bottomless Hole – Career Leadership Alignment

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