breakdown, breakthrough

Kubler-Ross Change Curve

Many of you will be familiar with Kubler-Ross' work on the stages people go through as they journey through grief. These same stages have been identified as a process that we all work through when we undergo significant change. Change always involves loss as we let go of one reality and accept another. In this way, although loss can be hard, it is also necessary and often positive. Without the loss of old structures or relationships or habits or beliefs, we can't move forwards into new ones. This journey is hard enough when we have consciously chosen it, but is much more complicated when we feel that the change has been forced upon us...

(Although in my experience, this is more rare than we think! Many situations we feel have been thrust upon us we actually have chosen, because a part of us wanted that change - even if this is unconscious. In these situations it's helpful to work with a thinking partner to review our story, in order to authentically take back responsibility for our own lives.)

What we see in Kubler-Ross' curve is that it's actually when we reach the bottom - the appropriate pain in recognizing what's being lost - that we're actually closest to re-engaging with our optimism and innovativeness, our vision and our creative energy. From this perspective the encouragements that it is 'darkest just before the dawn', and that a seed has to fall into the ground and die before it can generate more abundant growth, are profoundly true.

This is what draws many clients to coaching. Having stepped into a context where they want to see change, the client is looking for someone to help re-orient them on the journey to somewhere new, or to accompany them in the risky, demanding work of growth. As companion-guide I find it important to remember that breakdowns lead to breakthroughs; that snakes shed old skins against hard rocks to enable more freedom, movement and growth; and that the stress of letting go of old mindsets, beliefs and assumptions is real, and has to happen in real time. And the more stressful the context - be it a team's performance, the economic conditions, or this peculiar time of lock-down - the more emotional resource it's going to require to make these shifts.

So wherever your learning edge is right now: whatever you're feeling like you need to change or grow, be kind to yourself!

Kubler-Ross's 5 stages of grief are: 1. Denial, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining, 4. Depression, 5. Acceptance

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