So, what, in these circumstances, to do? For me, the first thing is to acknowledge the hugeness of change and the traumatic effect it can have. Even what seem like small changes can have big consequences. Even supposedly “good” changes can be surprisingly hard to deal with. It’s helpful to be consciously aware of this, and to allow for it.
When I was going through a period of depression a couple of years ago, I was aware that I needed to change but I was finding it extremely traumatic. During that time I read an article about change. (I know I was scathing about magazine articles in the earlier part of this piece, but this article was by a lady called Martha Beck, who knows whereof she speaks.)
She said that we culturally regard change as an iterative process, and gave the example of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. We imagine that the caterpillar goes into the chrysalis and remains essentially the same whilst it grows wings, legs and antennae to emerge as a butterfly. Not so. The first thing that happens when the caterpillar goes into the chrysalis is that it breaks down completely and becomes bug soup. From this soup the butterfly then reforms.
Martha Beck used this analogy to explain why the process of change is so difficult. It’s not a linear thing which is consciously undertaken and which relies solely on our conscious mind, our self-discipline and our willpower. It’s largely subconscious and involves an element of breaking down. It’s helpful to acknowledge this and to be aware that experiencing challenges and upsets, even a feeling that everything is falling apart, is not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean we’re crap or that we’re doing it wrong. It’s part of the process. It means we’re changing.