How to Deal with Change so it works for you

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Change is always difficult and we are forced to confront it relentlessly. For some, it is a heart-wrenching experience, for others a fleeting glimmer of hope. We all, painfully endure it, desperately try to cope with it, and tragically experience it in various ways. How we perceive it, experience it, and cope with it will typically determine how challenging it will be, sadly. I have sadly written plenty on this site about how low self esteem painfully hinders dealing with change and decision making in general. I toil tirelessly with clients, desperately attempting to bridge the vast chasm between their awareness and their attempts at action, but alas, only a few are able to grasp it. Unfortunately, the same bottom line appears in every case. If the client (or anyone) is not willing to acknowledge and make the right choices for themselves and take action, everything will remain unchanged, which is truly disheartening. No therapist, process or miracle will ever change that. The concept of self responsibility is a heavy burden here. Rather than this, it is easier to wallow in sorrow, blaming the cruel world, ineffective therapy, inadequate medication, haunting past, or anything else, rather than facing the harsh reality of taking responsibility for our actions and the inevitable consequences that follow. I have been as guilty as anyone else with this one.

An area of therapy where the above is prevalent is when dealing with relationships, which can be quite heartbreaking. Sometimes, in the depths of despair, when the client’s heart is heavy with the weight of a crumbling relationship, they tragically struggle to find the strength to escape, even in the face of unspeakable emotional and physical torment. I want to make it painfully clear that my statement is based on clear input from clients. It’s for me here to say that it’s not my place or duty to advise them to end a relationship. All I can do is urge them to ponder the repercussions of their decision, whether they choose to stay or leave, and question if they are prepared to confront the pain that awaits them.

A frequent comment I hear when clients talk about change is…”I will do this when I can muster up the strength, if I ever do.” In relationships, it is often the relationship that traps people in a situation where the strength isn’t there, creating a never-ending cycle of despair. The strength required to terminate the relationship and move forward is being drained by remaining in the relationship.

As a therapist, I always warn against impulsive decision making that hasn’t been thought out, which often leads to regret and heartache. I always recommend that a couple who are struggling, try to put together an action plan with an effective framework and a time period to work out their differences (Abuse cases are handled differently, of course). However, many remain trapped in a perpetual state of stagnation, unable to make any progress whatsoever, despite the overwhelming evidence staring them in the face. This is also unfortunately true of individuals desperately trying to move forward. Sometimes the fear is so overwhelming that they feel frozen and unable to move forward. This is the fear of change and the unknown. Sometimes, and unfortunately more often than not, it is a painful denial of reality and a crippling habit of procrastination. This typically indicates that the inner critic or manager voices are overwhelmingly powerful. These then need to be painfully worked with so they reluctantly release their suffocating control.

I believe it was Bill Shankly, a renowned football manager from the 70’s, who uttered words along the lines of ‘if you wish for the tree to flourish, you must first remove the dead wood’. He was, talking about rebuilding a football team and reluctantly bringing in the new growth of new players. However, this can be applied to our life, relationships, work, and personal development. How can we ever hope to move forward effectively when we are trapped in the clutches of toxic people, burdened by our dysfunctional belief systems, and paralysed by the perception of overwhelming fear and inevitable consequences that await us? Difficult as it may be, it is not impossible but this is often when the real struggle begins. However, change can also bring a wealth of opportunities.

Transition and change can be an exciting part of life and the human experience, coming in many forms and offering opportunities for growth. They can happen suddenly or gradually, bringing a mix of challenges and enjoyable moments. We have the opportunity to change our relationships, jobs, where we live, sometimes our values and beliefs, our goals in life; as well as improvements in health. We sometimes, just need to decide to do so. Transition and change bring opportunities for growth and adaptation. Roles and responsibilities can evolve to better align with our changing life circumstances. The more organic transitions in life are obvious, the cycle from birth to death. In fact all of life is made up of ‘little deaths’. As we transition through life we let go of childhood for adolescence, through to our old age. When change becomes difficult is when we weren’t expecting it.

There are numerous wonderful aspects to change, which include, exciting adventures and endless possibilities, inspiring and generating fresh ideas and innovative perspectives, enhanced strengths like increased self-confidence, and change can empower to prioritise and effectively solve problems.

There are many positive emotions and feelings associated with change and transition depending on life experience, situation, and circumstances. Some possible emotions could include: curiosity about the unknown, motivation and/or excitement, contentment or joy. Often we find it easy to associate these feelings with the change, when it has a positive impact on us. Many people experience typical symptoms associated with these feelings or emotions, such as: feeling refreshed and well-rested, improved focus, feeling optimistic or feeling challenged.

The feeling of being overwhelmed is a natural part of transitioning from one phase in our life to another. It can be an exciting phase if handled correctly as new experiences take over. Especially when the change is sudden or unexpected, the world can seem like a new and exciting place as we have the opportunity to discover and appreciate things we may have taken for granted before or have neglected. There are several simple steps that can greatly minimise the impact of transition. The following items could be beneficial:

Consider an action-based therapy such as Internal Family Systems.

Embrace flexibility. Embracing flexibility during change will likely bring new opportunities.

Take good care of your physical and emotional health.

Enhance your life flow by embracing a consistent and beneficial routine encompassing self-care.

Keep in touch with friends and social networks.

Embrace stress reduction techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises for a positive impact on your well-being.

Create an exciting wish list of new plans and goals that perfectly align with your fresh circumstances.

Embrace the exciting new changes and maintain new habits.

Embrace the process and progress one step at a time. This is extremely important. Smaller goals can feel more manageable.

Always maintain a positive sense of humour.

Engage in conversations with supportive individuals or a counsellor, therapist or someone you can rely on.

We embrace change as a necessary part of our lives, as it helps us build resilience physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Even though change at times can be challenging, it often presents opportunities for growth and positive outcomes if we embrace it.

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner's approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients' internal "parts," or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.

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