Any change, wanted or not, determined by a positive or a negative event, generates chaos as a first step. Planning the change always help, but the novelty of the new situation includes also fear, as we never experienced the new aspects before.
There have been developed various models to explain the steps we may face when dealing with a change. You can find here a concise comparison between the most popular approaches: Change management models.
There is no universal approach, the critics found weak spots in each. Still, the models may offer us various frames we can use, apply and rely on when dealing with or generating a change: when we are dealing with a traumatic event (the death of a close person), when we are part of top management and want to change the organization and so on. The models can offer us a specific sequence of steps we can plan, or can explain better the emotions and behaviours we / the others have after a traumatic event.
To give an example, the model Elizabeth Kübler-Ross defined five stages of grief and loss after studying terminally ill patients (DABDA): denying, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You can find a summary of the critics for this model here.
George Bonnano offers a different approach. He identified four possible behaviours after experiencing a trauma: resilience, recovery, chronic dysfunction, delayed grief or trauma. His researches showed that resilience is the most common behaviour while delayed grief or trauma is the rarest. Although his work is also criticized, George Bonnano is the first who studied scientifically trauma events and grief (his methodology includes skin temperature, heart rate and so on).
Still, we can observe the existence of all or some of these approaches, during therapy, depending on client’s life history. Using them, the client can follow a recovery program which secures him emotionally and offers a sense of self-control. The “simple” understanding of what is happening, helps us to accept the traumatic event and to find energy to face it.
There is a category of events less investigated by science, the positive ones, generating happiness: getting married, moving together with the partner, having a baby and so on.
At behavioural level, we are less prone to pay attention to the difficult part of a happy event that others experience. We do understand rationally that “maybe it’s not easy”, but we don’t offer the same support, we are not so impressed by their endeavours in managing the change, we are less open to listen and care.
We presume happiness makes this difficult aspects disappear. We ignore their effects and we realize too late we should have paid more attention. Some sayings and proverbs show that people are interested in these too: “the first 3 years of a marriage are the hardest ones”.
One method “invented” by people to make the transition easier is having rituals (bachelors’ party, baby showers). Using the rituals, the main actors get together with the close ones and receive their support in handling their emotions.
Happy events occur usually due to voluntary actions, the person chooses to make the changes. Any choice implies letting go to other options that either brought us benefits in the past, or limits our lives in the future. We may experience emotions of sadness or regrets. In tense moments, they can intensify and degenerate into destructive behaviours.
Several methods to cope better with a change:
- Identify correctly the emotions you have and solve as much as possible the issues your emotions reveal
- Plan the change by setting clear steps
- Repeat the possible the steps before the event itself, if possible
- Balance unrealistic expectations by exercises: project the possible future, analyse it and see if it is realistic
- Identify the benefits of the new situation and focus on them during the transition period