The greatest opportunities for change, growth, development, evolution, and/or personal improvement can occur when we face adversity.
Even in extreme circumstances.
Not that it’s easy.
Or exactly enticing.
Given a choice in these matters, many could arguably be forgiven for giving into human impulses and not exactly embracing crisis and/or change, even when it is forced or needed.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response; in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor E. Frankl.
In fact, avoidance and/or denial is a credible human way of attempting to control the level of pressure experienced as life events, some beyond our control, present themselves. For example, I have watched my own parents hide away, avoiding and denying reality, despite the obvious signs of dementia being present on a daily basis.
The stress and distress then grew and grew until a medical emergency forced the situation, and a crisis emerged, nice and neat, years in the making, but amplifying discord and upset.
Psychologically, there’s more going against us emotionally, physically and/or mentally when facing adversity, that can separate us from the very help and support we need. As a practitioner I have come to keenly understand the role avoidance and denial can play, as a means of trying to regulate associated pressures and stressors.
“People are generally forced to change. We don’t want to change… then something absolutely forces us to realize that what we are doing isn’t working or that our picture of the world is wrong… So we must change.” Ira Glass.
Assessing Readiness for Change
Change, like birth, death and taxes, can be seen as a somewhat inevitable part of life – but the experience can feel counter-intuitive especially when we derive a sense of security from routine and the expected, and staying within our known comfort zones.
Change is necessary however for personal growth.
This can prove to be especially true if we find ourselves in situations that pose risk to our physical or emotional health or wellbeing, and do not serve us best.
We can work with a professional to plot a pathway for change. Saying goodbye to a former lifestyle or habit isn’t easy, but there can be benefits to yield.
I often use such approaches as Motivational Interviewing and the Trans Theoretical Model of Change in my practice, to ascertain where someone is in wanting to change.
There is a cycle to such action. Knowing if someone is:
- (i) still considering change (weighing up pros and cons ie contemplating);
- (ii) not at ALL interested in change but noticing REASONS to change ie pre contemplative; or
- (iii) ready and ready for change (preparing or moving into action) can help guide the right therapeutic conversations that match our personal connection to a change process.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths; these persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
Some change is decidedly forced; lives can and do change in a heartbeat. And that can be incredibly challenging, especially if this places us in a dazed and confused state.
Accidents do happen. Some are Very Bad Ones, leading to irrevocable change/s.
Health can undulate. Some conditions are, or will become, chronic and persistent.
Unexpected job loss, including redundancy, can throw us into a deep pit of despair.
The decisions of other’s may work against us. Death/suicide. Divorce/separation. Desertion.
Regardless of the precipitating event, we are left reeling, feeling lost and alone, breathing in the pain.
Crisis can lead to experiences of compromised mental health, where it is easy to lose perspective and equilibrium. Resilience is often a state most people will strive towards. There exists however many variables, and diversity in life experience. This can serve to can erode an individual’s capacity towards resilience and eustress in coping with adversity.
Help may be encouraged or recommended, just at the time when we are feeling the most vulnerable and wish to hide. Just turning up to the designated appointment seems like a daunting task in itself; just to be seen can feel insurmountably bleak.
Trust your instinct. Most practitioners are skilled in establishing rapport and putting you at ease. It’s okay to give feedback as to what works best with you. I know I adapt my communication style depending on the needs of whom I am working with, so receiving feedback about what works best when you’re feeling vulnerable is something I find very helpful.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Maya Angelou.
Introducing Psychological First Aid
This is also often referred to as ‘First things First’.
Before considering solutions, we work with the individual to restore a sense of internal equilibrium. This can include many strategies but ultimately is based on intense self-care, to allow the brain chemistry to settle – adrenalin and cortisol can be decision-making blockers – and natural emotions to ease, so we can start to see a way forwards even via baby steps.
Remember – baby steps are STILL movements in a forward direction and they do count!
After over two decades of practising and operating under the unpredictable forces of crisis, I also now do see where Silver Linings can temper the intensity of crisis. And, believe me (or not), there are ALWAYS silver linings even in the bleakest of times. I welcome everyone, even if feeling fragile and not so social, to engage over change.
If you are struggling with accepting change and moving on, I welcome you to make an appointment with me.
Author: Leigh Fraser-Gray, B Soc Work, B Soc Welfare, Dip Human and Community Services, Voc Grad Dip FDR
Leigh Fraser-Gray is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, with many years of experience in working with people in crisis and/or with a trauma background. She is passionate about maximising resilience in her clients, drawing on solutions focused, strengths based approaches.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129