Changes – Face the Strange

I thought of this title last week but at the time I had no idea how hard ‘change’ was going to hit me.

Especially as I didn’t expect it.

I had no idea it was coming.

I wasn’t ‘prepared’.

Normally I embrace change – for better or worse – when I know it’s coming.

And usually, in the long run things do turn out better even though it may not seem like it at first.

“Turn and face the strange”

David Bowie in the chorus of his song ‘Changes’.

Because change is ‘strange’ – it’s the whole essence of it.

Change is ‘something different’, something new, and more often than not something ‘strange’ because it’s never happened before.

At least not in the way it has happened now.

Or is still happening because I’m not sure the process has completed or what I perceive as the change in my life is indeed what I think it is.

Or what I fear it is.

Is it a door opening?

Or is it a door closing?

And is that door ahead of me or behind me?

These are the questions you and I ask when we are coping with change.

And of course, it’s different when the change is instigated by us or brought upon us by others.

As we travel on our life journey we continuously pass through these doors.

These changes.

And as we do so we move from the familiar to the unfamiliar – or strange.

And that is never easy because as Marisa Peer explains – the mind constantly attempts to reject the unfamiliar and retain the familiar. It strives to protect us from what is unfamiliar – what is strange.

Which is why it is so hard to change when the change is sudden and unexpected.

Because if it’s our change, one that we make, we’ve had time to ‘familiarise’ with the idea – to move it from the ‘unfamiliar’ to the ‘familiar’.

It becomes something to look forward to – not strange at all.

But when change is thrust upon us – from ‘outside’ – by someone else who we may or may not know then it is going to be strange and unfamiliar and difficult to deal with.

Our ability to cope with it depends on the distance between ‘familiar’ and ‘unfamiliar’.

What I mean is that if a situation is very familiar to us, like a relationship for instance, and that suddenly changes drastically for whatever reason and in whatever way, then it is much harder for you and me to cope – especially if it is unexpected.

On the other hand, if the change is between something we’re not very familiar with or don’t really care about and something else with which we are less familiar, or ‘unfamiliar’ with then it’s not so difficult.

It doesn’t ‘matter’ so much.

It doesn’t hurt so much.

The mind has less to adjust to.

Of course, I’m talking here about personal change – change that affects you and I on an individual basis, not about ‘corporate’ change management or anything like that.

But if we are involved in making changes that affect a group of other people then we have to remember that they are all affected on a personal basis, one by one, and the ‘trick’ is of course to help each individual ‘familiarise’ with what comes after the change, to reduce the ‘familiar-unfamiliar’ effect.

It’s a pity politicians don’t think a little more about that, but then most of them don’t seem to have a clue about what’s likely to happen once their changes have been implemented, as they are usually done on the basis of an away motivation, rather than a towards motivation.

If you are taking people with you through a change then it’s important to remember that they probably won’t all come with you.

Some will just stop and reject the change, and some will go a different way.

‘You can’t win ‘em all’.

So, a change has occurred – that we weren’t expecting.

And we find ourselves thrust into in a different situation.

An unfamiliar and strange situation.

Probably one that at first, we can’t see any good in.

So we have to cope with it.

We have to work out where we are now, who we are now, and maybe what role we play now.

It’s all different, strange, scary, unfamiliar.

And the mind starts to work overtime, to make sense of it, to process it, to get some level of familiarity with it – to protect us – to keep us ‘safe’.

We find ourselves thinking at high speed, searching for some familiarity to hang on to, searching for the ‘good’ in it, or that will come out of it.

For what we often see as a disaster and devastation is often the start of a new blessing, a new ‘reality’ or a new ‘familiarity’.

You and I need to be patient through this process.

To stand our ground – be ‘grounded’

Because as in the story ‘Acres of Diamonds’, what we seek as a result of the change is probably right here.

Staring us in the face.

But just now, it’s unfamiliar and strange, and it will take time for the new situation to reveal itself fully and become familiar before we accept it.

There’s nothing we can do to prevent change being thrust upon us by others, but what we can do is learn to cope with it, understand what is happening in our mind – the transition from the old unfamiliar to the new familiar – and ease that process forward.

Onward and upward.