Anxiety as the result of change
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Kevin Ryan MBACP (Accredited)
1st October, 20140 Comments
Change is never a comfortable experience. There is always some sense of unease about change, no matter how positive it is. A planned wedding, the birth of a child or a longed-for retirement – all these events are a source of joy, but there is also an element of foreboding lurking in the recesses of your mind. This sense of foreboding is made up of two emotions: anxiety for the future and sadness for the past.
These anxieties are the ‘what ifs’, the concern for what the future might hold. Marriage, for example, is a time of huge change. You look forward to it, but you wonder how it will affect your relationship with your partner, your future financial situation and your plans to start or restart a family. These beg the ‘what if’ questions: what if we don’t get along when we’re married? What if I can’t earn enough to support a family? What if I am a bad parent? These are justifiable anxieties, natural concerns for the future and what it might bring.
The other feeling is loss – a period of mourning for what has gone. In the marriage, you are planning for the future, but that future means leaving part of your old life behind. The relationship changes and there can be a sense of loss of the pre-marriage relationship; or planning a family might mean losing the spontaneous life you once had. All change means moving from something old to something new, and while welcoming the new you may still mourn the loss of the old.
It is a bit like moving house. You have boxed everything up and the removal van has carried it all away. The front door has been closed for the last time and you have the keys for your new house. On the journey between the two houses, you are full of excitement for the new life that the new home offers, but there are anxieties too. Will this house be all that I hoped? Will the oven work? Can we afford to redecorate, will the neighbours be nice and is that crack a bit of damage to the plasterwork or the first sign of subsidence? Most of all, will I like it there? There is a myriad of things you have to prepare for.
On the other hand, there is a sense of loss around the old house. You remember how much fun you had there, the parties, the celebrations, the dinners or even just a place to return to in the evening. Even if the place was horrible, small and damp, there was still a part of it that offered you sanctuary; it was the home you knew.
The journey is the in-between place. You have not yet left your past, but you have not quite arrived at your future. Change is a constant in life and during that process of change, you are in a period of transition, as the past has not quite ended and the future has not quite begun. Anxiety and sadness are natural emotions at a time of change. If you are feeling anxious and cannot see the reason why, ask yourself, ‘What is changing in my life?’ The changes might be subtle – different colleagues or responsibilities at work, or the slow, unnoticed stagnation of a relationship – but they are enough to make you concerned for the future and mourn the past. If you understand the origins of this change and resulting anxiety, you can take action, seek help or accept the discomfort until the journey is over.
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