Life is a rollercoaster
There’s one thing for sure about life. You never know what’s around the next corner. It might be good. Or it might be bad. Good or bad; it will be temporary. Our ancestors knew this. They understood the concept of cycles. You go through good times then bad; growth, then retraction; birth, then death. The dark times are opportunities for rest and reflection. They are there to replenish you; to give you time to resource yourself again ready for a new stage of growth.
Nature takes this opportunity every autumn, as plants die back and go underground. It’s also the time to prepare for the spring ahead. Autumn is when I plant my bluebells in eager anticipation of the glorious display I will witness in the spring. But the bulbs need their time underground. If I’m lucky they will give me a month of colour. For the other 11 months of the year they add no beauty to my patch of woodland. But I happily accept those 11 months of nothing for those few weeks of unsurpassed beauty and scent.
So like the bluebells accepting the dark times as welcome respite from the need to put on a show can ensure that when it is time to perform you can do so with sparkle and vigour. I met a guy called Paul Dickinson earlier this year who specialises in helping people make good use of this rest time. Check him out at @RestBandit. But I’m more interested in the types of change that we go through during these cycles that challenge us to renew and grow.
Three types of change
We can identify three types of change: Shatterings, Dissolutions and Eruptions. They tend to arrive with what I call an Awakening moment. Something happens that tests you. You may not think too much of it at the time but a few months or even weeks later a similar thing may happen again. This is the Action moment. Time to recognise the theme of the change and what it is trying to teach you. Do the work that is necessary. Let go of whatever the change is asking you to let go of.
Then another few months or weeks later comes the Gift moment. This is the transformation that the change is asking of you. If you have done the work your life should have changed for the better, or at least you can see the positive learnings from the experience. If you have resisted the call to change you will be stuck with old patterns of behaviour and the gift will be lost.
At times in-between these moments come Ouch points. These are the moments that can really hurt. Again, they will be linked to the same theme. The trick is to see through the pain and recognise the gift.
Now for the three types of change.
Shatterings tend to come out of the blue. Like a powerful kick in the teeth. Some people describe the experience as if they have been shaken. Not stirred. Literally shaken until their teeth rattle. Of course this can be painful. Hence the need to take stock once the pain has subsided. Because Shatterings happen so suddenly the moment can pass without us really understanding what is happening. We are so busy trying to pick up the pieces to try to put back together what we had before. Our choice lies in how we decide to replace what has been broken.
A friend is currently going through a Shattering. A situation that once seemed so rosy and full of promise now irritates and frustrates her. It was a change that seemingly came overnight. As she moves through the process she simply can’t shake off the negative feeling. It is pushing her, shaking her, forcing her to reassess what’s important to her. That’s the gift that this Shattering brings.
Dissolutions seem to dissolve things from beneath our feet. We had a vision, or a dream that felt amazing but the reality has turned out somewhat different. Often this is a time when we may wish or long for things that are unrealistic. We have an enhanced imagination. On the downside we might literally be suffering. Dissolutions can physically weaken us and make us ill. Riding out a dissolution is about remaining in flow. Things don’t turn out as you wanted them to? Let them go.
My exit from my last job happened under a dissolution. It is often the case that dissolutions require us to relinquish secure bases. My last company had been my security for many years. But security can be stifling. I knew for a long time that I needed to leave. It came over me like a wave, which is often how dissolutions to work. I tried clinging onto the boat, but it was sailing on without me in a direction that I didn’t want to go.
When the wave finally crashes over us we have to be able to swim with the flow. To resist it is like trying to swim against a rip current that is taking you out to sea. That inevitably ends up in you drowning. Letting go and swimming with the waves will help you find calmer waters and eventually beach you. Now you can take stock of what you have left and move forward into the next stage of your life.
Eruptions are the most painful and destructive changes of all. They operate like a volcano. Like volcanoes the signs can be there for many years before the eruption occurs. It’s just that we learn to ignore them. Then when the eruption comes it can be devastating. A classic case of burning your bridges.
My divorce happened under an eruption. It was incredibly destructive. Anger and resentment hung in the air for years, like a black barren lava field. Lava destroys all that it touches but it also forms new ground. Where ultimately new life can take form. This of course can take years, as can recovery from eruption fallouts. The challenge is to recognise first and foremost that eruptions only destroy what needs destroying. My marriage wasn’t right for me. That’s not denouncing me nor my ex. We just weren’t right for each other. But we needed an eruption to force us apart. Then we both needed time, lots of time, to heal, so that we could regrow.
For me cancer was another eruption. That also took years to recover from emotionally. I probably still am, over 30 years later. But I sense that some greenery is finally starting to appear even on that lava field.
So can you recognise your Shatterings, Dissolutions and Eruptions? Do you know what they are trying to teach you? And have you been able to walk the road to change and emerge relatively unscathed from the journey?