February 20, 2007


Learning to become a manager of CHANGE

King Whitney, Jr. writes:
"Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better."

CHANGE is happening. How can we manage it? Perhaps the answer to that question lies within our personality. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are a reflection of our personality. Whether we are fearful, hopeful, confident or any other adjective that describes our personality, the one thing we have in common is we all experience CHANGE. To better understand how we can manage the process of CHANGE, it is good to know about the four Thinking/Feeling/Acting stages of it:

1) Denial 2) Resentment 3) Exploration 4) Commitment

One of the reasons we may want to DENY the fact that people, places and things do CHANGE, or become different, is because of our perception. Most people look for a sense of stability in their lives. Any disruption from a sense of stability, routine or order can increase feelings of anxiety.

At this stage, the CHANGE is perceived to be distressful, and so the natural response is to deny or minimize its occurrence. When we deny having a problem, for example, we are not considering the possibility of CHANGE to resolve it. It feels safer to DENY a problem than to confront it. In the short run, it takes less work and is less anxiety producing to ignore a problem than to tackle it.

The Dental Profession has a saying: Ignore your teeth and they'll go away. When we deny a problem or the motivation needed to make the changes to correct it, the problem does not go away. The tooth analogy shows us that if we want to keep our teeth, we need to pay attention to them. Choosing to remain ignorant about our problems keeps us in DENIAL about the need to manage CHANGE to make life better than before. If ignorance were bliss, choosing to be happy would be easy.

To move past DENIAL onto the RESENTMENT stage, we may begin to feel emotionally torn about accepting the need to change or resolve a problem. There is ambivalence and so we debate whether or not to make some changes that will improve our lives. At this stage, we either take some action steps or slip back into DENIAL. Positive self-talk is one helpful action step to move past the ambivalence of RESENTMENT onto the EXPLORATION stage. "I am strengthening my belief that CHANGE is possible." "I am learning to accept the need to CHANGE to resolve my problem."

When we are mentally, emotionally and behaviorally ready to begin exploring how to make some needed changes in our lives so that life is more satisfying and functional, it is possible to get stuck. Conflicting feelings need to be explored. Our self-talk may turn into an internal mental argument: "I do want to change vs. I don't want to change." A decision needs to be made that will help shift the focus away from the old self to the new self so the CHANGE we want can happen.

During the EXPLORATION stage of CHANGE the challenge to reframe our self-talk is based on our desire, ability, reasons, need and commitment to CHANGE: "I am losing weight. I am modifying my diet and participating in a doctor recommended regular exercise program. I am improving my health and fitness levels as I am losing weight. I am cutting my risks to develop heart disease and diabetes as I am losing weight. I am losing weight."

Let the decision for COMMITMENT continue. How am I measuring my success to CHANGE the way I see it? What am I thinking, saying and doing to feel less defensive about what I want to CHANGE?

List Pros and Cons for desired CHANGE to be made. What have I learned by not making the CHANGE up to now? How can I look forward so the CHANGE I want to make is becoming real? Who else can help me make the CHANGE to improve my life? How do I ask others to help me? Who am I helping when I make my CHANGE?

The choice is simple: Manage CHANGE or have it manage us. Either way, it's happening. When we manage it, we are better equipped to resolve our problems.

One last note:

Written by,
Mark S. Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor

Change is inevitable, unless it's from a vending machine.

Thank you for supporting Stooltime Counseling, Dan!

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