JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
Change is All Around
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
Mother Nature plays with us as temperatures rise and fall. Weather changes quickly and keeps us guessing as to what is coming next. This reminds us that the only constant is change. Just as the life around us changes so does our inner life. Our reaction to change is often fear, inner turmoil, and confusion. The effort is often to try to avoid change at any cost. The effect of numbing out, disregarding, and stuffing the pain related to loss and change, is accumulated grief.
Many of the myriad emotional problems seen today, appear to be the result of unresolved grief and loss. Every change, big or small, can trigger that sense of turmoil, displacement and disorientation. The body-mind response activates the neurobiological mechanisms. Many physical reactions can occur. These responses to change, loss, or grief can occur immediately or unfold over days, months, or even years.
Some individuals respond by shutting down emotions and move forward with activity or withdrawing into dissociation or sleep. Others may feel helpless, empty, and uncertain, while others manifest anger and sadness. A person may find themselves cycling among these responses. A person’s ability to identify the immediate responses, name them and find some release or expression can be the difference between the healthy experience of a traumatic event or a life-long struggle with emotional and physical problems. Unexpressed emotion, triggered by loss and change can be the precursor of what is defined as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
People come to counseling for what appears to be only a current issue. I often find that there have been major, unexplored losses, beginning when they were young. One of the most severe losses is the death, absence, or neglect of a parent or major caregiver. Often a child is given little if any, assistance in grieving this major loss. Adults mistakenly believe that children aren’t able to understand or deal with these losses. A child experiencing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is traumatized. Anyone experiencing abuse and neglect is catapulted into serious neuro-biological and emotional responses. Frequently, there is no one available to assist the child or adult in finding a safe place and processing the experience.
Losses, large and small can affect us. The important ingredient is how one deals with it. It is important to think about how the people in one’s family of origin dealt with loss, change, and grief issues. This is often an enlightening discussion as the person begins to unravel the family process and can see how they incorporated or reacted against these early learnings.
A person may find themselves acting much like a parent or caregiver, with his or her own ‘adaptations’ of this learned behavior. They may be reactive doing the ‘opposite’ of the parent’s behavior. If a parent was emotionally or physically out of control, the person may be quite contained and rigid, constantly fearing loss of control. If a parent was contained and quiet, the reaction may be to express each and every emotion with vehemence. The pattern may be one of cycling from one mode to another.
The experience of change and loss can be one that shapes our life, for the better or for the worse. Richard Rhodes, a Kansas City native, and Pulitzer prize winner, experienced a very brutal childhood. His mother committed suicide when he was under two years old. His father remarried a woman who was abusive and cruel to Richard and his brother. One day his older brother took Richard to the local police station and told him what was happening. They were placed in Drumm Farm, where they lived until early adulthood.
Richard tells us about it in, A Hole in the World: An American Boyhood. He talks about his early loss and his responses. The recognition of his loss and grief opened the door to dealing with it and moving forward with a healing process. He says, “At the beginning of my life, the world acquired a hole…In and out of a hole like that anything goes…I reconstruct my childhood because that’s the spring that seems to be flowing at the moment. Something else gushing from the hole, which is one of its manifestations is a fountain.”
The process of change and loss, creates a hole, a feeling of emptiness. But this emptiness asks to be filled. This can be the call to the process of healing.
No one escapes change. No one escapes loss. No one escapes the grief caused by living a full and healthy life. What each person can do is to honestly face the pain or wounding, both past and present, and transform the wound into healing. This is the journey we experience going from season to season, from death to life, from sadness to joy.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor and educator. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective problem solving. For counseling appointments (confidential virtual or in person sessions), seminars, speaking engagements or information on Life Weaving, Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Relationship Therapy call 816-509-9277 or email@example.com: www.heartlandholistic.com.