|How to Cope
by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.
I cant think of one thing more disconcerting in our
lives than change. But the simple fact is that change is a fact of life. And Im sure
that you are not unlike most people in that you find change to be a hard thing to cope
with. You dont need to feel self-conscious about your resistant to change. Most
people are. Humans are creatures of habit that feel safe and secure by the presence of
consistency and predictability.
We create comfort in our lives by striking a balance between
all the things that pull and tug at our time and attention. A fancy word for this balance
is homeostasis. And, as you no doubt experience from time to time, change upsets the apple
cart by disrupting the careful balance of consistency and predictability that youve
struck in your life. When your life is thrown out of balance, youre more vulnerable
to experiencing feelings of anxiety, sadness, even depression. Why? Because when change
occurs, an ending or loss is createda loss of comfort, routine, position in life,
role in family, and/or community. Loss then becomes a catalyst to experiencing emotional
discomfort and pain.
But you know what? Negative experiences of change such as
death, loss of job, or divorce are not the only sources of change that can create
emotional discomfort. Whether it be a death or job promotion, a bitter divorce or a move
to your dream house, the birth of a child or the loss of a limb, your mind, body and soul
does not react to the quality of the change, but to the change itself.
While there may be times when youre thrown for a loop by
the changes in your life, other people seem more adept at adapting to change. Whats
there secret? Why are some people more adaptable to change than others. For those people
who are able to most effectively adapt to change, its likely that theyre able
to reframe the meaning that they attach to the changes in their life. For example,
when a father is confronted by the wedding of his only daughter, he may say to himself,
Im not losing a daughter, Im gaining the son that I never had. Or
when confronted with the death of a terminally ill relative, a person who is able to say,
At least my father is now in a better place can find comfort in the midst of
an emotionally painful experience. You can see that in the two examples I just suggested,
the ability to reframe the meaning of a fathers daughters wedding or the death
of a father from loss to positive change can have a strong impact on how an individual
copes with the changes that confront them.
Dont get me wrongreframing the meaning of a circumstance and remaining
positive even in the face of great loss and sorrow can be difficult to do. You will
oftentimes be so overwhelmed by the emotions activated by the change that youre
experiencing that youll be unable to feel positive or reframe the meaning that you
attach to the change that youre experiencing. Thats the
challengedetaching from the emotions stimulated by the disruption caused by change
long enough to focus on the meaning that you attach to the precipitating event.
But therein lies the key to effectively coping with the changes in your life. Being able
to reframe your thinking and attaching positive meaning to the changes you experience in
your life will enable you to cope with change. If you view change as a threat, you will
experience fear and anxiety and most likely be resistant to the change you are about to
undergo. But being able to reframe the meaning that you attach to the changing event or
circumstance, you will be able to transform the feelings about and your attitude towards
the changing event or circumstance, thereby reducing or eliminating altogether your
resistant to the change.
So, when youre experiencing a negative feelings about a
change in your life, ask yourself what the change means to you. Do you find yourself
focusing on the loss caused by the change? Do you attach some meaning other than loss to
the change youre experiencing? What feelings does this change stimulate within
yourself? If the feelings that are being stimulated are negative, what new meaning can you
apply to the changing event or circumstance that can neutralize or transform those
Like anything else, effectively coping with change is a skill
that is learned and must be practiced in order to be mastered. Its up to youno
matter how hard you try you cant avoid change. By applying the simple tool of
positive reframing, you can make a hard situation must easier for you.
1.) Commit to reframing the meaning of the change you are experiencing.
2.) Commit to seeking the support of people who care about you.
3.) Commit to joining support groups that focus on the event or circumstance that
youre trying to cope with.
4.) Commit to asking for help.
5.) Commit to allowing yourself to work through the emotions awakened by the change that
6.) Commit to participating in activities that enable you to regain a sense of control
over some portion(s) of your life.
To learn more about personal empowerment, read Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. free online book,
Mountains: Magical Choices For Empowering Your Lifes Journey.