Written by: Campbell Manning LPC
Six weeks ago my husband casually mentioned our pest control company was coming in the morning for our annual home inspection. Normally these guys are in and out in 20 minutes and we are good for another year.
This fateful morning the inspector bounced back up the stairs in less than two minutes with the ominous statement, “Mr. Manning, you have a SERIOUS problem”. I knew this wasn’t going to go well, so I did the mature thing and shut our bedroom door to finish getting dressed for work. Frank came upstairs a few minutes later to tell me “Mr. Good News” had discovered a serious leak spewing from our hot water heater in the laundry room into the crawl space under the kitchen – and that our refrigerator was “days” from falling through the floor.
Our insurance company got involved immediately and we were quickly told our laundry room floor and part of the kitchen floor would need to be replaced – but we were covered and all would be well soon.
LONG STORY SHORT – six weeks later it looks like this . . . . .
It CLEARLY all must be replaced and will take months to happen. We JUST got access to the temporary subfloor, the stove, and the back door (were the dog door is – remember we have a blind dog who relies on memory and routine. Hence, why Eloise is in our office so often these days!!)
We are forced do all our dishes in the bathtub and don’t have access to our washing machine or dryer. We have NO counter tops! EVERYTHING from the kitchen is in the dining room and living room, while EVERYTHING from the laundry room and pantry is in the downstairs guest room. WE ARE LIVING IN CHAOS!
In the beginning I was nonchalant about the news since I perceived this particular CHANGE to be insignificant and it would quickly be resolved. As the news grew darker, with prolonged negative impact, I did not do as well.
When Eloise wet her bed because she no longer had access to her dog door and we did not hear her in the night, I had several moments of flat out anger and frustration, with a degree of inability to tolerate much more bad news. I was now forced to either go to a laundromat or ask a neighbor if I could borrow their washer and dryer to wash her bed.
This break in my routine, comfort zone, and expectation of ease in my life threw me, for a bit, into blatant irritation and intolerance.
My reaction to adjusting to these modifications, which I fully realize are not life threatening or monumentally overwhelming, is indicative of how all of us handle sudden change.
Our response generally depends on whether we had warning or prior knowledge, our degree of fear, and our belief in positive results.
It is also directly correlated to how much we already have on our plate that is “out of the norm”. If we are already juggling too many extra issues like buying a car, relocating a college student, setting up new systems at work, or anything we deem stressful or demanding of our time, we will respond more poorly to additional change.
How we handle change is largely dependent on how PREPARED we are for a different or new outcome. If we suspect or anticipate change we generally do well with it. If the change is likely, or even possibly, positive we tend to do better.
If we feel in control of the change we do even better. There is a connection between the reality of the change and the desire and preparation. If we feel on top of our ability to handle, direct, and tolerate the change most of us do just fine.
When we DON’T do well is when the change involves any, some, or all of the following:
1) Loss of a loved one or pet
2) Loss from fire, storm, or other property damage
3) Unexpected relocation or change in school
4) Sudden negative change in routine or habit
5) Having to find a new job
6) Being faced with a serious illness or injury of self, or a loved one
7) Being the victim of a crime
8) Learning about addiction
9) Having to send a loved one to treatment
Why we don’t do well with the above has to do with the degree of stress we feel. Our ability to write a “new script” is key to our tolerance of negative change, which the above nine situations define. This helps us strengthen our resilience, which is pivotal in maintaining psychological growth.
If we can’t (or won’t) develop the skills to strengthen our ability to navigate shifts in life, then we set ourselves up to deplete our stores of peace of mind or happiness.
The key to handling sudden negative news is to seek guidance and help, as well as to realize we are NOT IMPERVIOUS to bad news or adverse life situations. We tend to fall into the belief that we deserve or SHOULD expect things to go smoothly, routinely, or well and when they don’t we are stymied and overwhelmed. We simply are not guaranteed ease in life – nor are we going to get it.
And sometimes, we need help. Help to readjust our thinking, gain a different perspective, or reprioritize.
If we can mindfully note when things are going well, with NO EXPECTATIONS for ongoing, continuous ease, then we can be happier with routine, positive patterns, and simplicity. These are the times we must purposefully and noticeably CHARGE OUR OWN BATTERIES with gratitude. THEN AND ONLY THEN, will we be better equipped to accept the opposite - when life throws curves at us. And when we can successfully readjust to tolerate change we don’t want to occur, with direction and support, we realize we can grow, learn, and thrive.
These are the keys to accepting, challenging, and surviving negative change.