Navigating the Emotions of Imposed Change

A note from Kim Allen replete with this graph popped into my email inbox last week.. I thought that I would share some of her message with you:

"Let's face it. Just about the only people who like a change are wet babies! For the rest of us, a change is rarely welcomed. Change of any kind, personal or professional, is one of the most common sources of stress.

Change evokes a series of emotional responses that, left unmanaged, can eventually take a toll on health and performance. The question is not will you adjust to change. Yes, you eventually will. The real issue is how long will it take?"
I mostly resonate with Kim's assessment but have to wonder if it is a perspective of a person experiencing change who is content with the status quo. Many times in my life change has been something that was welcomed.. when things are not going well most of us want change of some sort.. maybe that kind can be described as positive change.

I think that the graph above does a pretty good job of depicting the cycle of emotions involved in change that is imposed on a person. It reminds me of the grieving process described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. I can so relate to the downward slide from "worry" to "loss of control" to "depression". I can also relate to these recovery phases of the cycle:
  • Exploration: At some point the reality of change sets in and I have had to search out ways to cope and adapt to the life changes.. this has been particularly difficult in dealing with the changes imposed by disability.
  • Discovery: More than anything I think that my discovery has been mostly internal. Change often helps us to discover our need to make changes in our thinking and our world view.. and it is quite difficult for some of us older dogs.
  • Adjustment: Old habits are so hard to break.. sometimes adjusting to life changes have required me to cycle through the emotions and adjust my reactions to the changes that I see as negative. Real adjustments and lasting personal changes take time.. and often that process can be so frustrating.
I have to admit that I feel pretty unqualified to give advice on change.. I feel that most of it has been imposed on me and I have not adjusted well. But maybe this is really the heart of life.. finding a way to live in a world that so often seems hostile to our dreams, expectations and desires.. maybe life is all about dealing with change?

Thanks so much for listening. I would love to hear your story of how you navigated through the emotions of life changes. Please share a few words of your story in the comments.


  1. Bob, I really enjoyed reading this article, and especially your thoughts at the end. I was reflecting on the changes in our lives, and it seems the most dramatic, were health issue changes. 1989 our daughter (18 at the time) was in a horrible car accident that has her in ICU for a month, and the hospital almost a year. Day after day her life hung in the balance, and the decision every week as to whether her right leg would have to be amputated at the hip. Thirteen skin grafts... Our lives changed over night. My husband and I took turns and lived at the hospital with her. My husband a Pastor continued his work, and I in Property Mgt. continued mine.... What got us through. The grace of Almighty God... but learning to take this dramatic change ONE DAY at a time.
    I have many other stories, but that one changed our lives the most, as a girl 18 became an infant in that we had to do everything for her.

    The good news...She was 39 this year. Still has her right leg, deformed and stiff but hers. She is a beautiful woman who has learned to take this chapter in her life, and turn it into a life of compassion for those less fortunate.

    Sorry, if my story took to long....

  2. It's a help to see some sense in the nonsense of life.

  3. Thanks for sharing that - I so enjoyed your story Wanda! What a year that must have been 20 years ago. It is true that sometimes the biggest changes in life are health related.

  4. When my husband was downsized out of his job after 29 years, change was immediate. He went from a work-aholic to having no "identity." Life became difficult for both of us as we looked for work and adjusted to a different life style. through it all we learned how to be a loving couple again and found out we could do things we never had even thought of before. We went in a totally new direction and became tour directors and also became management for special events and conferences. I guess the change allowed us to reinvent ourselves and we have never looked back. Of course we didn't do this on our own. It was only walking daily with our hands in the Lords, that we could move on.

  5. Job changes are one of the most difficult Sue. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I love that reinvent word.


I love to get comments and usually respond. So come back to see my reply. You can click here to see my comment policy.