Thursday, July 23, 2009

Temporary inconvenience, permanent improvement

Most of us have seen signs with similar words in our travels. It's summer and in the U.S. that means orange barrels and road work. Highway construction and repair is a transition phase the traveling pubic has to deal with. It's a transition that can have an enormous emotional upheaval component as well.

There are basically three ways to deal with the upheaval of road work:

1. Hang-on; and ride/wait it out.
2. Plow through; power jockey for position and minimize your inconvenience.
3. Detour; seek an alternate route.

These all have their pros and cons. Also, some of them work better in some situations than in others.

A major life transition and its emotional component is sort of like road work. It is probably a given that it's happening and finding a way to deal with it will be necessary.

The three way so dealing with road work also describe some of the common ways of dealing with life transitions and their attendant emotions. Let's take a look.

1. Hang-on: sometimes the easiest choice is to go along for the ride and hope it's short. The advantage is that you just hang-on; the disadvantage is that you just hang-on. It only requires one long continuous decision; do not let go or get out of line.

2. Plow through: this is where the focus and all the energy is directed toward shortening and smoothing out the situation. The advantage is possibly minimizing the length or degree of the upheaval; the downside is everything that gets run over in the process.

3. Detour: sometimes there is an alternative route for all or part of the journey, like taking a break or a parallel path or even choosing a different destination where the route is not so torn up. The advantage is that a break from the intensity may bring fresh energy or resolve. The disadvantage is that it may take longer or to some place you weren't planning to end up.

At this stage I have experienced many construction zones and life transitions from minor to major. With varying degrees of success I have used all of the suggested options for dealing with those situations, and for some a combination has been needed. The point is that life is rarely cast in a mold and being open to a new solution often makes getting to the destination possible.

It is important to note that none of these ways of dealing with transitions precludes taking advantage of support networks or appropriate professional help. A car that breaks down in a construction zone needs a tow truck and mechanic just the same as one out on an open stretch of road. Just because you have a standard way of handling transitions does not mean you can't or shouldn't take advantage of every tool at your disposal to facilitate the journey and your outcome.

So how do you tend to respond when faced with a construction zone of a life transition?

Note: I am not a professional counselor. I share my experiences in order to facilitate personal thought, inquiry and reflection. Questions and decisions about dealing with a specific life transition and its emotion upheaval should be referred to a competent professional.

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