How do you react to change?
We know change is inevitable. We even say, “the only constant is change.” And yet, when change comes, it can be hard. We’re not prepared. We don’t like it. We fight against it. We don’t feel like we’re in control.
Yes, change always brings us an opportunity to redefine the story we tell about who we think we are, but knowing that doesn’t make change any easier, does it?
Instead of resisting, we can choose to embrace a process of moving through change that helps us feel empowered and leverage change in our favor. And the sooner we can move through the process, the sooner change can morph from something that needs to be ‘endured’ to something that can ‘enlighten.’
The first step is allowing yourself to ‘feel your feelings’ and to let yourself fall apart if you need to. Feeling your feelings (and the emotional release that comes with that) is an important part of moving through change. The problem is that many of us (most of us?) have either been told to stuff our negative feelings or else were criticized for them. And so we are now experts at stuffing our emotions, feelings, and needs. We try and only think positive thoughts and force affirmations from our lips.
Not all change is traumatic, but sometimes change (and our experience with it) can be a traumatic experience. If the change you are experiencing feels traumatic, don’t sweep those feelings under the rug.
I had a traumatic birth with my daughter.
I was only 30 weeks pregnant when I was having contractions. I went to the hospital and was told I was dehydrated. So, they hydrated me and sent me home. Within hours I was back.
Then after I was admitted, I was told I couldn’t have any visitors, had to only lie on my left side, not get out of bed, the nurses ignored me and the only one supporting me (creating a fuss, trying to get me a room with a window, and sticking up for me) was my husband. I did have one friend who brought me some dry shampoo, which was a godsend.
I think my mental state was so low that I wasn’t in the hospital for too long before finally gave birth to a 2lb 6oz (healthy) baby girl. But I didn’t get to hold her or feed her. I was stuck in the recovery area with moms who were breast feeding. I was among crying babies and nursing mothers, yet my arms were empty. My daughter was alone in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
And because of my husband’s previous demands that I be taken care of, we had a reputation as troublemakers. The nurses in the NICU weren’t friendly. They wouldn’t give us information. They were inconsistent in giving us permission to even ‘touch’ our daughter in the incubator. And when the alarms went off because my daughter would stop breathing, the nurses slowly and casually went to check on her (I wanted them to rush over!). I had great fear that she’d stop breathing and never recover because the nurses seemed so blasé about attending to her.
When I tried to talk about the trauma of my daughter’s birth and how I was feeling, people kept telling me to be happy that I had a healthy baby and that she could have been much sicker considering how early she was.
Trying to ignore my emotions about my birth experience caused me to feel anxious and apologetic. I struggled with feelings of self-blame. I had to be assertive and fight for every bit of information and guidance and even threaten to move my daughter to a NICU at a different hospital. I wondered if there was something wrong with me because my daughter was so premature. I was unsure, nervous, defensive, and scared yet I put on a happy face on the outside. I pretended all was well.
If we aren’t allowed to process the emotional energy on the front end, we can get stuck in the story and experience long-term effects that can be even more destructive.
Denying your feelings and labeling them as “negative” only causes them to last longer, creates internal resistance, and will eventually catch up with you - often at the most inconvenient time and in the weirdest way.
A great second step is to be gentle and patient with yourself if you’re going through change. Accept where you are without self-judgment. See if you can adopt a mindset of faith knowing you will get to the other side. You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again.
Your journey through change (or the dark night of the soul) will be easier if you can love yourself a bit. Let yourself fall apart if you need to. There’s no shame in feeling your feelings. They are YOUR feelings, after all.
We are 7 months into a change called COVID-19. How are you dealing with your altered lifestyle and social distancing? Are there other changes in your life that you are having a hard time navigating or are resisting? If so, let’s talk.
If you need a friendly ear or someone you can express your feelings with, you can give yourself the gift of reaching out and connecting with me on a free call. Who knows, it might just be what you need.
Say yes to yourself by having the courage to feel your feelings.
Janet Kingsley is an effective 'Belief Change Expert' who helps clients transform frustration to focus, confusion to clarity, and self-doubt to self-confidence.