Dr Bev Smallwood

How to Deal With Confusion During Change

When things are in major change in a person’s life, one of the most prevalent reactions is that of confusion. Ambiguity pervades a person’s experience during this time.

Reasons For Confusion During Change

There are four reasons for this confusion. These things in combination create significant internal chaos for people in transition.

  • First, a person is experiencing a loss of familiar “landmarks”. These are things that have given a person security.
  • Second, there is a loss of fit of old assumptions. In changing times, things just don’t work like they normally do, and a person’s old way of thinking does not give the information needed for problem solving during this time.
  • Third, there’s a loss of workability of old behavioral habits. New skills are called for, and these have not yet been developed.
  • Fourth, there are feelings of unreality. When things just aren’t the way they used to be, there is an unnatural feeling about the everyday experience.

Dealing With Confusion

1. Understand that confusion during change is normal. Your loss of clarity and the decrease in your level of functioning can make you feel a little crazy. Understanding that this situation is temporary and that this emotional reaction is a normal part of transition can help you feel more sane.

2. Learn to tolerate ambiguity and lack of order. Someone said, “Chaos precedes order.” Realize that, of necessity, there is ambiguity and lack of structure when things are changing. Order will resurface as time goes on. Take heart.

3. Spend quiet time, “listening.” During times of change, it is especially good to keep a personal journal of thoughts and impressions. During times of transition, you will gain insights that may not be available to you in more routine times.

Periodically, review your journal to see your patterns. Discover what you are learning and encourage yourself with the progress you’re making.

4. Learn new information and skills. Reduce your confusion by taking initiative to learn the things that you will need to know in your new situation. Take a class, talk with others who have the skills you need, or read literature that gives you valuable information.

5. Think about skills you can transfer. Identify competencies that you have used in other situations that may apply in the new situation. You may have to make some adaptations in the way they are utilized, but no doubt you have learned many things in life that you will be able to transfer to the new situation. Giving yourself credit for assets that you will be taking into the change reduces the feeling of being out of control.

6. Learn the skill of patience. Ups and downs are normal in the change experience. You will be able to become more patient as you practice riding those ups and downs. Refuse to give in to discouragement from the inevitable setbacks. Learn from each setback, and “keep on keeping on.”

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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