Change is with us always but it does seem that the number, intensity and speed of change has increased exponentially in the past decade. In addition, this time of year brings many changes, even more so than the New Year. I find it helpful to remember the stages associated with change and the tools that fit for each stage. With that in mind here is a reprint of an article written and posted here some time ago.
Ms. Chaos & Mr. Change: Guests on a Mission
CHANGE! We all know it’s an inevitable and necessary fact of life. Even so it can fill us with trepidation! We are brave, put on a happy face, see only the good, shush the voices that surprise us with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity that we believed were long discarded … and yet they wake us in the night, and are the first ones to greet us in the morning!
There are many journeys through change as we move through life. Some we instigate and others are thrust upon us. Of course the ones we initiate seem easier. We feel more in charge. A good strategy to adopt no matter what the source of the change is would be to develop ways to feel in charge where you can. A correlate to that is to find ways to be comfortable with not knowing, uncertainty and ambiguity!
It is helpful to realize that there are stages to change. If you properly identify the stage you are in, allow yourself to be there and match your activities to that phase. By doing, so you will move through change and transition with more ease. You also may find yourself growing and learning in ways that in the end are very satisfying and rewarding.
Sources and stages of change
Mr. Change most often arrives quite properly attired in a boring beige suit. He is not a very interesting fellow. The spark has long gone out of his eyes and his attitude. He has settled for stability in his life, happy to have things remain status quo. He may begin to experience feelings that he is not sure about…foreign and confusing they make no sense to him. In spite of the unease, or maybe because of it, he gradually becomes aware that something is amiss.
In contrast to the boring beige suit type of change is Ms. Chaos. She rips into town gaudily dressed and announces her presence quite loudly and often rudely. There is no denying she has arrived! She is shocking, harsh and entirely unwelcome. However, she does get your attention and demand that you deal with her….NOW!
Of course there are many ways that change can enter. These are two extreme metaphors that describe qualities of the initiation stage. The next stage is the passage through dissolution. In this phase some or all of certain aspects of your life and identity disintegrate. Confusion, doubt, fear and anxiety are frequent guests at your table now. This is a good time to remember what Fritz Perls said “Fear is excitement without breath”. It is also a good time to remember to give yourself permission to grieve losses, as well as time to indulge in some extra tender loving self-care. A Feng Shui tip to help with this stage: have some cool colors around you to help your energy flow more freely. The color gray, the color of dissolution, can be a helpful reminder to you to be willing to adopt an attitude of release. Letting go is a big part of change. As you become willing and open to letting go, you begin to create empty space and room for new ideas and parts of you to emerge. You also make space for new experience to happen.
After some time of feeling stuck and like you have been stagnating, you may (gradually) sense a stirring of life within you. The thought begins to arise in your consciousness that perhaps you will survive this reconstruction. Maybe you will even end up with a better life, or be a better person, or learn how to be happy no matter what, or…___ you can fill in the blank with some wonderful quality, event or happening that was not apparent at the start of this process–one that only materialized as a direct result of this change. In this stage there is the beginning of the integration of new abilities, skills, emotions or beliefs. Mr. Change shows up in a trendy new suit and Ms. Chaos is chanting OM! You’ll probably feel like wearing brighter colors like spring green to reflect your rebirth. In fact you can deliberately bring clearer, bright colors into your world to help remind you of the new life mounting increasing within you.
You may not feel quite steady or solid as you begin to live your new life but you are here, alive and present. Congratulations, you’re a butterfly at last! You’ve emerged and you’re ready to fly. It’s best to remember that these stages are often entwined, difficult to discern altogether clearly and there is a lot of overlap as well.
Each of us is going through various changes every single day. The world, our environment and inner and outer beings are in constant flux. When you learn to embrace your changes and allow yourself to dance in with them rather than resisting then the chances are you’ll be more comfortable with yourself. You may even look forward to change rather than fear it.
Different parts of your life can be at different stages of change at any given time. For instance, perhaps you’re a newlywed, just starting out, but your job or career is in disarray. Or your job might not have changed, but you’re beginning to notice that you are reacting differently to people and situations. Maybe you’re noticing that your feelings about your friends are shifting. You may be changing, but your job and social network isn’t. You may be caring for young children and sudden changes also require that you also care for elderly parents. Perhaps the predictability of your days and your time has suddenly been thrown into overdrive and you just don’t know what’s coming next. Life is an adventure, a mystery and at (many) times complex!
It helps as the drama of each day unfolds, to observe and experience how you really feel in different situations. Take a few minutes to reflect on what’s happening in a particular moment. Step outside of your situation and simply observe what is going on. Imagine you are watching a movie. Then, notice and honor yourself and your feelings. However you feel is OK. Go with the flow of your energy. If you need some quiet time, take it. If things are in chaos, go with it but don’t get caught up in the melodrama of it. Observe it, play your part but maintain as much of an attitude of noninvolvement with any drama as possible. Do what you can to trust in a deep inner sense of letting go and allow things to evolve.
Have you ever observed a pendulum? It’s in constant motion. It’s also very predictable, swinging from one side to the other, creating patterns all along the way. The pendulum goes to the outer edges but it never stays there. As soon as it reaches an edge, it begins moving toward the other side. Most of the time is spent in the middle. And so it is with change and our lives. Continuous movement, shifting and the creative emergence of the new is the way of our universe and we are a part of that.
Remember: You can take your time, acknowledge where you are in your process, choose to see transition as an adventure, or a mystery to be lived and match your response with the stage of your journey. Above all, stay in touch with the emotions that are part of your future goals …keep your eye on the prize…there is always a beginning, a middle and an end to everything…even change!
Karen Kallie, MACP, RN and Peg Donahue