The Terror of Change

The Terror of Change

Crossroad - HDR

Moss Jackson, PhD
Psychologist and Success Coach

There is an ancient Chinese expression “May you live in interesting times!” It is not meant as a compliment or greeting. It is an ironic statement. It usually is expressed as a curse meaning, “May your life be filled with chaos and anxiety.” If you wanted to wish someone peace and security, the expression would be, “May you live in uninteresting times!”

It appears that we are currently going through “interesting times”. Our current political climate is almost a disaster. The prediction was that there would not be much change in this election. Hillary Clinton was the predicted winner and she would continue the Obama program into the future. No real change, just the safety of continuity.

Well, we all got thrown into confusion. Trump won after two years of nasty politicking, scandal and treachery. Trump, an outsider with no political background is our President-elect and will be duly sworn in to office in January. Most of us are at a loss about what kind of president he will make. This seems to be true for both his supporters and dissenters.  Will he use his office for more personal power and financial gain? Will he really “drain the swamp in Washington” or just add more muck to the pond? When he gets insulted, will he react with anger and push the nuclear button?

Or will he be so influenced by the position that he will act like someone who really cares about our country as a unified and diverse body? Will he deport ten million immigrants or focus only on the criminal element? Will we see any compassion and care toward others who are not in his family? There is so much that is still unknown and a lot of confusion. This change process can be terrifying to many, and many of us are struck with a profound sense of loss and fear. Will our country tip into a racist and far right slant, killing off Sanctuary cities and declaring all Muslims the enemy?

He ran and won on a platform of radical change! And as a result, the character of the Republican Party will be radically altered. From what I see and hear, Trump is choosing individuals who seem to stand for an “us vs them” perspective: white exclusivity with everyone else as a suspect. No wonder we are seeing a sense of fear and even terror in many of our fellow Americans and their families.

Change can be confusing, but there is a process that most go through as they experience change. This process seems to have a structure and flow to it which might offer some people a little comfort. The current political and cultural changes will probably take at least two years to transition through. So, take a deep breath and get ready to swim through murky waters.

The first stage of the change is DENIAL, a stage where many people appear to think “No problem, this is just a passing fad and nothing will come if it. Everything will be fine!” I don’t think any sane person is denying anything at this point in the election. Trump and the promises he has made, like building a giant wall to keep Mexicans out, deporting millions of immigrants, ripping families apart and reducing the taxes of the rich and corporations, have hit us like an unforgiving Tsunami.

Collectively, we now appear to be in the second stage of SHOCK and RESISTANCE. In this stage fear is pervasive, as is confusion, uncertainty and anger. People can become dazed and overwhelmed and become desperate for some relief. Rather than finding relief and resolution, people become more frightened and distrusting toward others with whom they disagree. If we take the time to appreciate the jolt to our collective morale and take the time to listen and understand the pain others are going through, the shock will be gradually reduced. This is especially true if our leaders listen and empathize.

People begin to feel open to change as they move into the third stage called EXPLORATION. This is where ideas and options are explored and tested out. Hopefully, the disenfranchised become part of the conversation and people contemplate that things might eventually work out. There is still some anxiety, but now there is also an element of hope. “Maybe things are not a disaster and we can find our way through the confusion and despair.” People join common causes which give them a sense of collective identity and purpose.

If led the right way and we do a good job to working together, people move into the final stage of change, the COMMITMENT phase. Now there is a sense of cohesion and future direction. There is more cooperation, working together towards a common cause productively. Action replaces anxiety and people can breathe again. “Hey, we seem to be on the same track now and working toward a common goal!”

Right now we are far from common COMMITMENT and we are struggling to just survive. Hopefully, you can keep breathing and take care of each other. In your families, acknowledge your children’s fears and tell stories of people who fought injustice and kept their core values and faith. It is time for the Wolf of Love to triumph over the Wolf of Fear. Find something to contribute and help others with, stay focused on your dreams, set meaningful goals and get into action. Most of all, do not freeze in terror! Remember the words of Sachel Paige, the famous Black baseball pitcher from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s: “You got to keep moving to keep the juices flowing!”

Vision, living a life of purpose, setting and working together toward goals and building resilience all contribute to a sense of personal power, interpersonal connection and, gradually, a return to safety. In my new book “I Didn’t Come To Say Goodbye“, I outline strategies and describe a toolkit you can use to navigate the changes ahead. You may want to also check out my new 2017 video webinar “Navigating Life.” Click HERE to sign up.