Confusion can be a big part of the process of change. It is often unavoidable, but here are four things we can do to make a time of confusion easier to get through.
Personal change can be a strange business. We know that the present situation is unsatisfactory and yet we are often unclear on the alternative.
Lack of Experience
When we want to make deep changes, we may not know from our own experience that a better way of living is possible.
It is quite possible that a child who grew up in an abusive family will have no experience of a relationship that was both close and safe. They may want it — but they don’t have any personal experience that it is possible. I have personally known many people with this kind of background who have gone on to establish loving and close relationships that are safe and respectful. It has usually been through many small steps over a long period of time, with plenty of support from others.
When I left my first wife I realised that I didn’t know what to do. Getting divorced wasn’t in my script. My future was, as far as getting divorced was concerned, a complete blank.
I think the deeper changes we make are often like this: they involve some kind of ‘faith’ based on what we know of others and from others, perhaps backed by good thinking; but not with a solid base in our own experience. We end up perhaps taking a big leap or a small step depending on our preferences (I’m a small step kind of person), but it often contains some element of ‘faith’.
After this step of ‘faith’ we enter a different way of living, or a somewhat different world. It may be very different or only a little different, depending on the issue we are dealing with. Getting divorced was somewhat different for me: I still had a job, some of my friendships continued, my interests remained the same. For someone to discover that a close and loving relationship is possible will likely be a huge change.
These changes bring confusion. We need to get used to our new way of life, or the new world we have entered. Usually, the bigger the change, the more confusion there will be.
Confusion can be pretty unpleasant — and scary as well. It hardly seems fair. We make the change we need to make. We start living in a way that we think and feel to be better — and we end up feeling bad.
What I’m suggesting is that confusion is part of doing things differently. Learning any new skill will probably involve some confusion, and learning a new way of living probably will too — except that what we are learning may be far more complex and involve many more aspects of our lives.
With deeper changes we can also be surprised by how many things are involved. For instance, a spouse may know they are better off divorced, but not realise until one blows that they always relied on their partner to fix light globes. Re-doing our relationships — say, being more assertive or receptive, or learning to listen or speak up more — can lead to a huge number of changes. We may end up very confused.
Four Ways to Ease a Confusing Transition
Some ideas about ways to make moving from one way of living to another a little easier:
- Maintaining a sense of the process
- Keeping a diary or finding a way to measure how the new way is better can be helpful. It may be a cessation of migraines, or developing new interests or hobbies or relationships.
- Paying attention to the confusion
- A journal or diary can help with this too. It will usually help to have a sense of why you are confused. If you have never done something before then it is quite understandable that you are confused. Few of use were taught how to relate well to others — so it isn’t surprising that we find it confusing to figure out.
- Knowing what it is we’re confused about
- If you can get a sense of what it is that you are confused about it may help in deciding what to do. If I know that I’m ignorant about divorce I can ring the government department concerned for advice, for instance.
- Support can help a lot
- I don’t mean advice. I mean someone who will listen and perhaps help you sort out what it is you’re confused about.
If you have experiences of confusion and how to deal with them, I’d like to hear from you. Please let us know about your experience in the comments section.
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by