18th February 2019

Transitions

Over the last two years most people in the UK have been gripped with Brexit fever regardless of whether you are a leaver, a remainer or a don’t knower or a don’t carer. Whatever the outcome, we will all have to manage the changes that will take place when decisions have been made.

Change is the one constant in life

and yet when we have to cope with change we are often surprised or angered by it. We often welcome change as long as it spins in our direction but when it does not we can often question our pre-conceived ideas about life. How we cope with these transitions will depend upon our coping styles, our family of origin and our genetic disposition.

Whether we want to or not we all have to go through numerous changes in our lives. Starting school, changing schools, leaving school, our first job, changing jobs, getting married having children, and moving house are a few examples. Other types of life transitions are reaching a significant age, eg 21, 40, 60, 70 . . . losing your job, becoming ill or disabled, getting divorced, being bereaved, retiring, having a miscarriage or losing a child. Some of us embrace change and transitions well. My husband embraced change and transitions with excitement and enthusiasm and it brought out all his best qualities.

William Bridges, in his book about transitions wrote “Every transition begins with an ending and ends with a beginning.” He wrote about five main tasks to successfully master transitions:

  •  Separation from the familiar
  •  Letting go of the familiar
  •  Disenchantment - realising that certain things no longer make sense
  •  Disidentification -  re-evaluating one’s identity
  •  Disorientation  -  a vague sense of losing touch with one’s reality and feeling the void

Feeling the void is uncomfortable and painful

and many of us want to skip this stage. Examples of skipping this stage may be when we get divorced or have loss of a relationship and then very quickly look for another mate. Whenever we move forward we leave something behind and this creates a state of grief, however small. If the change is unexpected or unwanted the sudden break up of relationship or loss of job can shock us and may create anxiety and depression. We are out of our comfort zone and our imagination runs wild and we worry about an unknown future.

Experiencing a life transition can bring out all sorts of feelings in us all. It is a time that we may start to evaluate our lives, question where we are going in life, and what is important to us. When we stay with the process of transitions we can learn many things about ourselves and these insights can be important gifts. If we try to bypass this stage it can lead to greater difficulties in the future such as impaired decision making.

What can we do to support ourselves

when managing change and transitions? Talk to a trusted friend, seek support from a mental health professional or find some self-help books, a personal gowth course or listen to Ted Talks on U Tube are some of the possibilities.

As Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) said “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself “I have lived through this horror and I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the things you think that you cannot do.”

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