Change

I was watching an online course on Organisational Change Management at work (bear with me) and my attention was caught by the section on transitioning people through change.

It began with the Change Curve, based on Elizabeth Kübler-Ross' Grief Cycle - the five stages of grief we are all familiar with:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • acceptance

All standard stuff, but what grabbed me was William Bridges' three phases of transition.

  • endings
  • neutral zone
  • new beginnings

When trying to apply the grief model to my own circumstances I found it didn't entirely fit and didn't provide the whole picture. It was almost as though it was caught in an inception style loop: a whole cycle within stages of the cycle itself, specifically the depression stage.

As I wrote before, I was in denial about my depression but finally came to accept it. This acceptance, however, isn't the end and it doesn't, alone, give you a way out - acceptance is just the beginning.

And that's where the three stages of transition come in.

Ironically, Bridges proposed that transition actually starts with an ending - the ending of the old way of doing things. It makes sense. The ending phase also includes most of the five stages of grief up to depression.

So, what really got me?

It was the next stage, the neutral zone, in which people have increased anxiety and decreased motivation. I just thought "that sounds exactly like where I was." The depression setting in was one phase but the neutral zone felt analogous to life within the depression. Even the name sums it up, neutral, apathetic, disinterested.

If you contrast anger and depression, both negative states, you realise that someone who is angry is passionate, still cares, is still engaged. Someone who is depressed and demotivated is not engaged, has lost that passion, and that is a dangerous place to be.

It's hard not to get stuck In a cycle of negative thought where ones own emotions exacerbate what is perceived to be reality. This can result in self-exclusion when one is convinced that it is others doing the excluding.

Succumbing to depression is a change so it is easy to see the parallels and to understand why the change curve was based on the cycle of grief.

The saying goes that you can't fix a problem without first acknowledging you have one, still, entering the acceptance stage is not enough on its own. Yes, it allows for a new beginning, Bridges' final phase, but the cycle of negativity must still be overcome or one risks slipping back to the previous mindset.

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