The second thing I might suggest which would be helpful in dealing with change is to acknowledge it. By this I mean something more than acknowledging that change is traumatic, I mean an acknowledgement that change is happening. When I write this it sounds like a bit of a no-brainer, but I’m not sure it’s as obvious as it seems.
In my own case, when I changed roles at work, I needed to change in some quite difficult ways. This wasn’t really acknowledged until I went to see our HR director about the problems I was having, and she greeted my explanation with the words “I’m not at all surprised” and told me that I wasn’t the first person by a long way to find the move from a client-facing to an internal role difficult. This was enormously helpful for me. It wasn’t just me! I wasn’t finding it difficult because I was a bit crap – I was finding it difficult because it was difficult! It was still difficult and I still felt like crap, but I knew it wasn’t all my fault. Had I known this at the start, and better still, had support to get through it, it would have made the trauma of the change much less frightening and dreadful. Dreadful in the sense that it was full of dread, because I didn’t know what was happening to me, what was causing it, and whether it would ever come to an end.
To change, we have to literally become a different person, whether because we want to be different in some way (slimmer, fitter, non-smoking, not client facing, calmer, more disciplined, or whatever it may be) or because we have to change in response to changed circumstances. It’s made harder by our cultural habit of regarding so much change as a change in behaviour rather than a change in ourselves, as through the two were not inextricably entwined.
We have rituals to mark a lot of changes; weddings, christenings, funerals. We have baby showers and eighteenth and twenty-first birthday parties and stag and hen nights and leaving presentations and farewell dos and Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs and confirmations. All mark the change in being which has to accompany a chance in circumstances. Often, particularly in older ceremonies marking a life-change, the changed state of the person concerned is marked physically in some way, by wearing different clothing, an item of jewellery, a different haircut or piece of headwear. Today in the absence of formal ceremonies we often use tattoos to mark a changed status; nothing says “Dad” like having your child’s name tattooed on your arm.
All of these in their own way are marking the fact that changed circumstances mean we have to become a different person, and are supporting the change by somehow visibly embodying it, so that society at large recognises the new status and adapts to it. If you can find some way of marking a change and displaying your “new” status, it might be easier for people to cope with the changes in you, and it might be easier for you too.
More on Monday; some poetry tomorrow.