Get Yourself Oriented in the beautiful, messy Phases of Change
People change for two reasons: either their minds have been opened or their hearts have been broken. ~ unknown
“You know, like snorkeling in Belize,” she said, and carried on with her story. But my mind was a step behind her then. Umm… wait… I’ve never snorkeled in Belize.
I mean, you don’t know what you don’t know.
This feeling got me thinking about how I talk about what I do as a coach. Having studied and practiced for years and having guided many people through important transformations, this is my familiar territory. But I know that I sometimes speak about coaching as if everyone else knows what it’s like. And that certainly can’t be helpful, just like the snorkeling reference.
So I set out this week to write you an explanation of how a coaching journey progresses. What came up first, of course, was that no two coaching programs are the same, just as no two parents are the same, nor the problem they’re facing or the personal change they’re wanting.
The other thing is that change is never linear. You don’t go straight from where you are to where you want to be. Wouldn’t that be great?
But there are some phases that we all go through as we make internal shifts. Some stages are fast and some slow, sometimes we circle back several times, some we try to skip over...
It's rarely clear, familiar or fun in the swampiness of change. And yet, when you become acquainted with each phase of change, you can feel a bit more ease. It’s good just recognizing where you are, even when it’s uncomfortable, and having an idea of how to support yourself and receive support from others.
Even in unfamiliar territory, a map helps you take in the both the challenges and the gifts of the process. So here’s my map for you:
There are moments in life when we just know that something isn’t working anymore.
Sometimes it’s a pivotal event that brings you clarity: an argument, a silent car ride or an awkward dinner. And then you know that your relationship with your young adult child has become too distant and painful. You know right then that what you’re waiting for just isn’t happening.
On the other hand, sometimes that awareness arrives in a seemingly random moment of culmination. You’ve been hobbling along and carrying the cracked pieces in your hands. For months, you’ve been telling yourself that it’s good enough for now. And then, one day, it just isn’t.
You just know.
You might not have clarity about what exactly is happening within you or be able to articulate it to anyone else yet. But you understand that your relationship with your kid is broken, unsustainable and heading in the wrong direction.
What can you do with this new awareness? Turn toward your discomfort, even though part of you would do anything to have the pain go away. Instead, be with it. See the mess for what it is. Go ahead and feel your dissatisfaction in your heart and your gut.
Remember, it’s in the muck that the lotus finds its nourishment. So look around and see the muck.
You’re awake now and you’re no longer willing to leave things as they are. You’re not ok leaving it to chance and letting your relationship play out this way. You’re not ready to accept a constant battle or a permanent chilly distance between you and your child.
There’s a good chance you’re feeling frustrated, resentful, uncertain, discouraged, skeptical, inadequate, overwhelmed, withdrawn, hesitant, furious, tired, fragile, remorseful…
It’s a tricky stage. You know something has to change but you don’t necessarily know ‘what’. Or if you know what needs to change, you don’t know ‘how’.
So, go gently with yourself. Allow the emotions to surface, peak and subside as you acknowledge the unsustainability of your situation and admit that a change must occur. And let those feelings be clues to you about what’s coming up for healing. A fuller expression of yourself and what matters deeply to you is about to emerge. And it’s going to be messy.
Never underestimate the power of imagining your future. What kind of a relationship do you want with your child? What would ‘better’ look like? What would you be doing and saying? How will your relationship feel?
This may be difficult to visualize if you’ve been busy putting out fires and walking on eggshells. Maybe you had been so focused on what you wanted to stop that you’d partially forgotten what you really desire in your relationship with your child.
But now you remember. You engage your senses and feel for what gives you pleasure and fills your heart. You start seeing it again, dreaming of a different way to talk or be together. And you start hoping.
As your desired relationship comes more into focus, you’re ready to explore what’s possible. You consider other perspectives that you rejected before. You try out different ways of speaking – different words, different paces, different tones. You find different ways of moving. Some feel good and you incorporate them into your life. Some feel ‘off’ so you learn, revise and try again.
It’s a time of curiosity, vulnerability and discovery. Some of your old triggers and patterns become less automatic. There’s a spaciousness in this new place and a sense of coming home to yourself. You feel a greater connection to how you feel and what matters to you. You can feel yourself shifting.
It’s not so much that you reach a destination; it’s more that you have a different way of being that continue to emerge. New abilities that you didn’t have only a few months ago are up and running, strengthening and available when you need them. Your most authentic answer is readily accessible. Your mind, your instinct, your heart and soul feel like they’re working together. You feel like more of you is here and present in the world.
Instead of feeling like you have to have it all figured out, you know that your development as a parent is ongoing and this fills you with curiosity and courage. You feel engaged in your life and looking forward to the next part of the journey.
And here are some self-reflection questions for you today:
Where do you see yourself right now in the stages of change?
What kind of support do you need most in this stage?
In what ways is part of you trying to avoid this stage?
What would help you sink in and receive the gifts of this stage?
Take a little while with this. Sketch it with coloured pencils, write in your journal or say it out loud during your walk.
Yours is a beautiful human journey, dear parent. And I’m honoured to walk alongside you in it.