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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

How to Cope With Change
by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

I can’t think of one thing more disconcerting in our lives than change. But the simple fact is that change is a fact of life. And I’m sure that you are not unlike most people in that you find change to be a hard thing to cope with. You don’t need to feel self-conscious about your resistant to change. Most people are. Humans are creatures of habit that feel safe and secure by the presence of consistency and predictability.

We create comfort in our lives by striking a balance between all the things that pull and tug at our time and attention. A fancy word for this balance is homeostasis. And, as you no doubt experience from time to time, change upsets the apple cart by disrupting the careful balance of consistency and predictability that you’ve struck in your life. When your life is thrown out of balance, you’re more vulnerable to experiencing feelings of anxiety, sadness, even depression. Why? Because when change occurs, an ending or loss is created—a loss of comfort, routine, position in life, role in family, and/or community. Loss then becomes a catalyst to experiencing emotional discomfort and pain.

But you know what? Negative experiences of change such as death, loss of job, or divorce are not the only sources of change that can create emotional discomfort. Whether it be a death or job promotion, a bitter divorce or a move to your dream house, the birth of a child or the loss of a limb, your mind, body and soul does not react to the quality of the change, but to the change itself.

While there may be times when you’re thrown for a loop by the changes in your life, other people seem more adept at adapting to change. What’s there secret? Why are some people more adaptable to change than others. For those people who are able to most effectively adapt to change, it’s likely that they’re able to reframe the meaning that they attach to the changes in their life. For example, when a father is confronted by the wedding of his only daughter, he may say to himself, “I’m not losing a daughter, I’m gaining the son that I never had.” Or when confronted with the death of a terminally ill relative, a person who is able to say, “At least my father is now in a better place” can find comfort in the midst of an emotionally painful experience. You can see that in the two examples I just suggested, the ability to reframe the meaning of a father’s daughter’s wedding or the death of a father from loss to positive change can have a strong impact on how an individual copes with the changes that confront them.

Don’t get me wrong—reframing the meaning of a circumstance and remaining positive even in the face of great loss and sorrow can be difficult to do. You will oftentimes be so overwhelmed by the emotions activated by the change that you’re experiencing that you’ll be unable to feel positive or reframe the meaning that you attach to the change that you’re experiencing. That’s the challenge—detaching from the emotions stimulated by the disruption caused by change long enough to focus on the meaning that you attach to the precipitating event.

But therein lies the key to effectively coping with the changes in your life. Being able to reframe your thinking and attaching positive meaning to the changes you experience in your life will enable you to cope with change. If you view change as a threat, you will experience fear and anxiety and most likely be resistant to the change you are about to undergo. But being able to reframe the meaning that you attach to the changing event or circumstance, you will be able to transform the feelings about and your attitude towards the changing event or circumstance, thereby reducing or eliminating altogether your resistant to the change.

So, when you’re experiencing a negative feelings about a change in your life, ask yourself what the change means to you. Do you find yourself focusing on the loss caused by the change? Do you attach some meaning other than loss to the change you’re experiencing? What feelings does this change stimulate within yourself? If the feelings that are being stimulated are negative, what new meaning can you apply to the changing event or circumstance that can neutralize or transform those negative feelings?

Like anything else, effectively coping with change is a skill that is learned and must be practiced in order to be mastered. It’s up to you—no matter how hard you try you can’t avoid change. By applying the simple tool of positive reframing, you can make a hard situation must easier for you.

Pathfinder’s Checklist
1.) Commit to reframing the meaning of the change you are experiencing.
2.) Commit to seeking the support of people who care about you.
3.) Commit to joining support groups that focus on the event or circumstance that you’re trying to cope with.
4.) Commit to asking for help.
5.) Commit to allowing yourself to work through the emotions awakened by the change that you’re experiencing.
6.) Commit to participating in activities that enable you to regain a sense of control over some portion(s) of your life.

To learn more about personal empowerment, read Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. free online book, Moving Mountains: Magical Choices For Empowering Your Life’s Journey.



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