Transformative Psychology: Embracing Changes for Personal Growth
Updated: Nov 17
Despite our assumption, change is inevitable. Change is the only constant in life. Every year, month, week, day and second is different. Our brain deludes us into thinking we live in a world of predictability and constants by maintaining routines and organising randomness into patterns. This helps us feel safe and prevents us from being overwhelmed by the constant change we are exposed to.
Sometimes, however, change is so significant and unexpected that it totally challenges or even shatters our comfortable view of the world. Such change is usually in the form of loss. Such events include sickness, death, job loss, relationship breakdowns, bullying, assault and injury. Often, these events' catastrophic impact, and sometimes irreversible nature and unexpected suddenness, make them highly salient and devastatingly traumatic.
Despite formal definitions, in clinical practice, I have always regarded trauma as the result of significant, unexpected change that challenges a person’s existing worldview to such an extent it is not easily reconciled. This often includes loss and grief.
Do We all React the Same to Change?
Our reactions to change are idiosyncratic. Every person will react differently based on many variables or factors. This might include whether the change was expected, how the change was introduced, their previous experience with change, their resiliency, their psychological health and well-being, the way they perceive and think about the change, their developmental history, their environment and lastly, availability and quality of social support.
Triage: The First Response
Under normal circumstances, people’s reactions might vary from indifferent to an acute crisis.
When a critical incident occurs, triage is vital to ensure individuals are not having a catastrophic response. Acute reactions of concern include dissociation or some other form of acute reaction relating to their mood or cognitive status that might place them at risk of impulsive or dangerous behaviour. There might be a higher risk for those with a history of impulsive behaviour, significant trauma, previous acute mental health conditions or substance abuse.
Adjustment to Change
For most people, a range of emotions and behavioural reactions are experienced over six to eight weeks post-incident. Responses might include agitation, mood swings, hypersensitivity, nightmares, disturbed sleep, hypervigilance, withdrawal, anxiety, depression, rumination and so on. Reactions can also vary according to cultural and religious experiences, practices and beliefs. These symptoms and signs can be very typical. People often think they are losing their minds. Remember, they are a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.
Kubler-Ross developed a model of human response to change. While this model is very useful, remember everyone’s adjustment is unique, and they might experience the emotional reactions listed to varying levels in a different order or not at all. Below is a pictorial presentation of responses often observed during grief counselling based on a modified version of the original work by Kubler-Ross.
It is good to seek professional help after a critical event to have a health professional review your well-being. A psychologist can provide psychoeducation on what to expect and create a recovery plan that considers risk management, should it be required.
Psychological therapy might be required if symptoms are severe, worsen, cause serious distress, or are not resolving after six to eight weeks. Psychological counselling is then recommended to review your well-being, as well as identify and determine factors that are preventing the natural resolution of trauma or grief.
Complex and Complicated Grief Reactions
Often, individuals experience problems adjusting when circumstances around loss are complex or complicated. Such events include the death of a child, someone being seriously injured as a result of someone else’s irresponsible or even malicious actions, the gruesome nature of an event, guilt over a conflict, or the nature of the premorbid relationship with the deceased, conflicting emotions in response to the event, unfinished business, and feelings of guilt and shame for something you perceived you did or did not do. Sometimes, it is the chronic nature of an event, such as ongoing bullying, an extended period of illness, repeated and protracted abuse as a child or a partner, or the helplessness of standing by while witnessing or being aware of the abuse of others.
Letting Go or Finding Meaning
While some people can let go and move on, others must find meaning in the experience. We now understand people do not have to let go of the past, objects of loss, or the deceased.
Instead, the objective is to find new meaning and form a different relationship with the person, event or thing. This is a highly individual experience where psychological therapy can assist.
Transformative Psychology and Embracing Changes for Personal Growth
Embracing change is pivotal for personal growth, and within every challenge lies an invaluable opportunity for development and self-discovery.
As we navigate life's twists and turns, adapting to change becomes an inevitable aspect of our journey. Each challenge, whether anticipated or unexpected, offers a unique chance to expand our perspectives, cultivate resilience, and unearth hidden strengths.
At iflow Psychology, we understand the transformative power of embracing these challenges as opportunities for growth. Our therapeutic approach is centred on guiding individuals through these transitions, fostering a supportive environment where clients can explore, learn, and harness the potential within every obstacle. Through tailored strategies and compassionate guidance, we empower individuals to navigate change and thrive amidst it, utilising these moments as catalysts for personal evolution.
Join us at iflow Psychology on this empowering journey towards embracing change and unlocking your fullest potential. Our registered psychologists can help.
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(c) 2020 Dean Harrison