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The Connection Between Change and Our Emotions

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Change. A small word with a lot of power. Change can be defined as anything that causes you to modify some part of your life. Your residence, your job, your relationship status, or a death in the family are all examples of change causing agents.

Some people hear the word “change” and they start to feel panicked. Others discuss change with excitement and eagerness. How we react can tell us a lot about our mental health and how we cope.

There are specific actions you can take to cope with change. The first is to understand how your emotions are directly linked to change. There are both negative and positive emotions that can create change or can be forced to change.

Emotions Lead to Change

Emotions are connected to change in that they push us to act, even if our actions are not positive.

Our emotional responses can differ when unwanted change happens. If we don’t want to change, we get defensive or even defiant. We may even feel angered.

An example of this is when your landlord puts a note on your door saying you need to be moved out in thirty days due to the house you are living in being sold.

On the other hand, if we desire change, we sometimes jump too soon and create more problems for ourselves. An example is when you decide to change careers so you quit your job before attaining a new job, leaving you with little finances to bridge the gap.

No matter what the specific situation is that is causing the change, our emotions can be negative or positive.

Negative Emotions Can Cause Change

Fear is an emotion commonly associated with change. We fear the unknown. We are scared to get out of our comfort zone. There is even a phobia relating to fear of change. It is called metathesiophobia.

Fear of failure or of the past repeating itself may be why change can seem so scary.

Grief is sometimes forced upon us. Suddenly losing a loved one or being transferred to a different part of the country for work. We grieve the pieces of our lives that have changed, especially if it was out of our control.

Other negative emotions that can lead to change include anger, confusion, loneliness and sadness.

Not all change is created by negative emotions.

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Positive Emotions Can Cause Change

According to Changing Minds, there are ten common positive emotions. It is reported that we need at least three positive emotions for every one negative emotion to have a good life. Some of these emotions include joy, serenity, gratitude, interest, hope, pride, amusement, love and awe.

It has been reported that positive emotions such as these can make us more resilient when it comes to change, whether wanted or unwanted. In addition, people with positive emotions tend to be more satisfied with life than those who are negative.

Researchers claim people change in stages. They even created a stages of change model.

Stages of Change

The stages of change model applies to those who are thinking about making changes in their life, not those who are forced to change by outside circumstances. People who want to break a habit, a negative habit, are the ones who fall under this model.

Precontemplation is the first stage described. In this stage, you aren’t all in. You are just having passing thoughts about change. You show little interest in following through. This does not mean you won’t follow through, it just means you not ready to say yes to change just yet.

Contemplation is the second stage of change. Here you are confident you will take steps to change and break your habits, but you are not quite sure how to start. You are seeking information and advice in this stage.

The third stage is called preparation for a reason. This is the period where you are creating a plan of action. You weigh the pros and cons and develop back up plans in case one fails. You are seeking advice and establishing a support system.

You are just about ready to act, which is the next stage in the change model.

In the action stage, you are doing things that create change in your life. You are implementing ideas and trying different techniques to improve your life. For example, if you suffer from social anxiety, in this stage you are seeking professional help from a counselor and engaging in social activities to overcome your fears.

The next stage is maintenance. You have been doing great at taking steps to change. You are simply continuing to act steps towards better behaviors. This stage can last for many months, even up to a year.

Termination is the final stage of change. You have done it. For the last year or more you have made positive changes. You have formed better behaviors that replace any negative behaviors you had before. You have kicked a habit with much less fear of relapse.

Once in the termination stage, you learn to cope with change for a life time.

Coping with Change

There are things you can do to help change feel less stressful. Even when the change is unexpected and unwanted, there are ways to cope.

Seeking help from an outside resource is very beneficial to coping. A licensed therapist is trained to help you through changes that can seem overwhelming. You do not have to go through this change alone. A good counselor will lead through all the stages of change.

Another way to cope is to accept that the change is taking place. Often, we make it more difficult by resisting change or trying to stop it from happening. Some events are completely out of our control. Recognizing that the change is going to happen no matter what you do can help you adapt.

Denial about the change can create more stress in your life. Facing challenges and overcoming obstacles can give you confidence and a sense of achievement. No matter why change is happening, you deserve to have the ability to come out on top. You deserve the chance to see all change as positive in your life.

 

 


Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.