Sudden life changes sweep us off our feet and leave us feeling scared and vulnerable. Almost instantly our mind, driven by nervous emotions and thoughts, starts responding to the new situation. Every unexpected change triggers the five stages of the acceptance process. Once we receive the “news” we embark in a journey along the acceptance process.
The first stage of this process is that of denial. At this point our energy is focused on denying what it’s happening, we sense a need of looking away from the new situation, basically trying to continue our daily life as if nothing had changed or happened. Nevertheless, we know that there is an uncomfortable situation that must be acknowledged and dealt with, but we consciously decide not to attend to it and look away.
On the second stage, we move to anger. We are now angry and irritated by the new unwanted situation which triggers a “mental defense mechanism”. This reaction has to do with the fact that suddenly, we find ourselves involved in an unforeseen event that must be attended. In many cases, anger comes accompanied by the feeling of overwhelm as we believe we are not capable of managing this new unexpected situation.
In the third stage, the blaming process kicks in. There is finger pointing in all directions, as we stand on the belief that we had nothing to do with this new situation and that it was triggered by something external or by somebody else. We do not want to take responsibility, let alone acknowledge that in every situation that we find ourselves, either as passive or active participant, we chose to be there. In my point of view, is in this stage in which the majority of the emotional and physical energy is consumed.
The longer we linger blaming the outside for the new so-called unwanted situation we lose precious time and energy which could be invested in solving it. It is only when we take responsibility for our role in the situation that a plan of action can be envisioned.
On the fourth stage, we have understood that there is a new situation that has impacted our “status quo” and that something must be done. Nevertheless, we are still not in full acceptance of the situation, we still want to see the situation as temporary even though is a permanent one. Here is where the bargaining starts.
This bargaining phase is a dangerous zone which can convert in self-deception. By locking ourselves in the self-deception mode we prevent our growth and remain stuck in this “tug of war” between bargaining and acceptance. We fall into repetitive attempts to convince ourselves that perhaps the situation is not too bad, or that we did not have responsibility on the matter or any direct implication.
Nevertheless, energy is being depleted as our mind is spiraling— thinking about the new reality but not taking any appropriate course of action in trying to solve it. We only regain full power over a situation when we take responsibility and accept it.
Finally, we arrive to the fifth stage, grief. At this point we realize that the situation is tangible and real and that there is no need to play the self-deception game anymore. We need to treat ourselves kindly as the risk of showing signs of acute sadness, depression and anxiety are latent.
As grief resides acceptance starts to flow in. At this point, we realize that we indeed have the power to change things, the choice to make decisions, and the opportunity to regard the situation from a different angle. With this new mindset, we liberate energy to create an action plan that will help us come to terms with the new reality.
People who have mastered the acceptance process decide to pass swiftly through all the stages. Experience has shown them, once and again, that unexpected events are the norm and not the exception. Therefore, they have understood the benefits of transitioning quickly and gracefully through the process. By doing so, they acknowledge the situation fast enough, take responsibility, and turn their energy into building a strategy and move towards a “solving mode”.
So, if you are currently experiencing a life cycle coming to an end, make the conscious decision to jump as quickly as possible into the bandwagon of acceptance. In this place, you will not only find a solution but experience a sense of peace knowing that change is imminent but also transitory and that at the end of the day everything is going to be all right.
P.S. This blog was inspired the Kübler-Ross model, this version has my own twist! Including my own experiences and management theories
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