Why you feel like you're losing it

Change events often make you feel emotionally chaotic. Desire for control can have you searching for 'Safe and Certain'. And as you realise this change is happening despite all of your efforts to resist and contain it, your emotions go hyperbolic and you feel everything from anger, sadness, denial, regret, confusion (and many besides), often simultaneously.

This is normal, and it is necessary.

Learning from Life

According to brains much smarter than mine, the universe has been unfolding for 13.772 billion years, and life on Earth about 3.5 billion of them. The natural world might have a thing or two to offer us here.

Change in the natural world follows a pattern: Disruption; Disorder; New Order; New Relationship. When an organism is required to evolve, it can only reference its constituent parts to re-form them. The chaos and disorder are a necessary step in breaking down to rebuild.

This is also true for people. However, humans are emotional beings and so change is an emotional journey. The parallel process is:

  • Loss

  • Fear

  • Acceptance

  • Hope

When we are disrupted by a change event, we become aware of all we might lose. We then tend to catastrophize, fear takes over and we imagine losing everything. This is seldom the case.

At this deepest and darkest point of the loop, the hyperbolic emotions make you feel like you’re losing it. You are not going mad. This is normal. What is happening is the process of breaking down to rebuild.

The Change Loop

The Change Loop is an infinity figure eight because change is unending. Just as you have finished processing one change another will soon follow. And actually, we have many changes going on at various scales and complexities all the time (Thanks to Jon Schofield for adding that to the thinking).

This is how we learn and grow. It might look something like this:

In the natural world the new order that comes from chaos allows the organism to be in a more symbiotic relationship with its changed environment. As an aside, the most successful organisms on the planet are those that have the greatest flexibility for adapting. This is probably true for leaders as well.

In the human emotional journey, the act of acceptance is the calm after the hyperbolic storm. It is when we make peace with what is happening around us. Unfortunately, you cannot force this - mindset will help (more on that in a coming Blog), but it takes the time it takes. Sooner or later however, we see the possibilities for a new future and our place in it. Hope returns, and we might even get excited by it.

That's the TedX bit. Let do something with it

Below are a set of eight coaching questions that are a modified version of something I picked up from Jim McNeish, a mentor and former boss of mine. They follow the emotional journey of change and help you process your feelings and thinking.

  • Pick a change that is currently going on in your life - you probably have a few to choose from right now!

  • Ask yourself the eight questions. Follow the order.

  • Take your time to connect to your feelings and thinking at each step.

  • An alternative approach would be to have a colleague, friend or family member take you through them, and then switch roles.

Exploring change - Coaching questions:

  1. What has changed?

  2. What will you miss?

  3. What else could you lose?

  4. What is the worst that could happen? (Connecting to this question feels a bit shit - it's OK, go with it)

  5. What do you have to accept?

  6. How could you grow?

  7. What fears have you exaggerated?

  8. What good things could happen? (Connecting to this question feels good - hang on to it)

The big summary question: What is this change teaching you?


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Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

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