How To Cope With People And Change

Things don’t change; people do. Dreams and visions change. They sometimes grow and evolve, and sometimes decay, self destruct or just sit around and stagnate. Organizations and communities are made up of people. People change. Sometimes, they just get up and walk out, and never come back. At other times, they say hi to you on the steps every morning, but they are no longer who they used to be. Coping with life is difficult enough when things are fine, but becomes near impossible when you don't know if people around you can be trusted. One of the most difficult lessons in life is being able to accept that people, dreams, and visions change.Perhaps the most useful skill one can acquire is the ability to cope with people and change.


The reason this grief is so difficult to cope with is because it involves a loss of trust and dependability. When someone changes from someone you knew into someone you have never known, much of your belief in the goodness of the world can come crashing down. I know how it feels, since I have been witness to such changes in and around me, and I have bruised myself over and over again. Here are some ways I have learned to grieve and get over the one thing that is inevitable - change.


Acknowledge your feelings
It feels foolish to have been wrong, and it feels very foolish to have been let down by those you trusted. It is very difficult to acknowledge this feeling. It is not foolishness that you are experiencing. What you are feeling is betrayal of your vulnerabilities. In the process of living with loss, it is important to acknowledge your feelings to your self accurately. I have wasted much time trying to cover my feelings of loss and betrayal under a layer of indignation and false bravado. This is a part of the process of grief. Grief is characterized by the four stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. One has to go through all of these stages, perhaps going back and forth between them before one reaches the fifth and final stage of grief, which is acceptance. Know that your feelings about the changed situation are real, they cannot be wished away but will resolve with time. There is no magic button that you can press to feel okay about the way things are by 10.29 on Tuesday morning. Give yourself time.

The Questions are Pointless
The one thing that follows every loss, every let down, every betrayal is the tsunami of questions that never let up. How could he do this? Was she lying all the times that she said the things she did? Can they be trusted again? Will we ever be able to put our sincere effort out together? What have I done to deserve this? They come at you endlessly, every time that you are by yourself, or taking a break from things that would otherwise keep you occupied. A big ideological change in an organization or in a relationship between two people is usually accompanied with a state of confused emotions. No matter how cold and detached you might be, the awareness of being let down will be at the back of your mind. Your lower worlds will provide you with the questions ceaselessly and then provide you with answers to them too. This starts a vicious cycle of anger and self pity. You feel sorry for yourself, and then you feel angry that you are sorry. The angrier you get, the sorrier you feel, and it spirals downwards endlessly. Let go of the questions. There are a thousand factors behind the actions of the other person that you will never know. You will never know his difficulties, dilemmas or compulsions. It is temptingly easy to presume and judge, especially when you yourself are smarting from being let down. Ease up on the questions. Neither the questions nor your presumed answers are going to make you feel or act any better or wiser.

Embrace What is Emerging
When faced with a rearrangement of principles in the world around you, it is easy to get obsessed with how things were, how comforting and promising it was, and how wonderful the vision that you were fed on would have turned out - if only. This indulgence in soothing nostalgia robs you of the present and the opportunities that the present holds. While there is great comfort in commitment to a vision and to people and their visions, they also hold you back from exploring other options and alternatives. In the process, you might actually be depriving yourself and the organization of health that it could otherwise have experienced. When things fall through, instead of lamenting about what could have been, try and focus on the opportunities that are emerging. Are you free now to pursue some other line of thinking? Can the organization now do some of the things that if felt constrained to do earlier? Is there some energy that can now be allowed to surface? Can the vision be re-written from the ground upward?


Pack the Memories Away
One of the more complicated things about moving on after people and organizations change is the memories that get triggered by things and events. It is essential to value the contribution made to your life by those who were integral parts of it, but that does not mean you have to live the rest of your life tormented by what is no longer there. If things or the way things are done repeatedly evoke memories, pack them away, rewrite the process, and sweep the past clear. Especially in large organizations where many people can be affected by relatively small trip-ups or paralysed systems, it is essential that the past be packed away. This is in no way disrespectful to what is no longer there, but a step towards uncluttering your present processes.

Keep Bitterness Out
This life and this world are small theaters, and the people you meet on the way up might be the same people you meet on your way down. Our time is limited and the ultimate purpose of each one of our lives is to create the maximum value we can for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for each other. As morality matures, the driving force, the motivation behind the things that you do undergoes change. Sometimes it is not possible for one to understand the motivations behind another person’s actions. Moreover, our lives are interconnected in ways that we cannot entirely comprehend. Nothing that happens happens without reason. Do not allow your feeling of being let down, being left behind, or being deprived stop you from experiencing gratitude and compassion for other. Bitterness tends to eat a person up from inside, while preventing him or her from experiencing fulfilling relationships with others. You never know how you or the people you feel bitter towards today might need to interface tomorrow.

Our lives are like games of chess. At the end of the game, the king and the pawn both go into the same box.

42 comments:

  1. I always read your posts with interest and learn a lot from them although you are much younger to me.

    At first whenever i was faced with the problem of how to cope with grief I had to face all the questions you mentioned especially why me?

    But since i started following Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism I have been able to accept disappointment without bitterness bitterness .How right you have been. Only if we could remember that death is the only constant in life.

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  2. Thought provoking... and like a light in darkness! Love you.

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  3. Studying the Buddhism and the teachings of the Lotus Sutra has helped me to view a lot of things in perspective. The greatest truth that I have learned is that our environment in terms of people, circumstances and relationships are nothing but a reflection of our selves. This puts an immediate end to blaming and allows growth to take place. Thanks, Mom and ConversingWithTheBuddha! Appreciate your comments.

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  4. Vinay5:41 AM

    There are many layers of therapy that you have packed into this very short but comprehensive article on grief and acceptance. Congratulations and may many people find help and health through your organization.

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  5. First of all thank you for visiting my blog..and thanks a lot for sharing such a wonderful and thought provoking post with me...I will definitely ask my soul sisters to read this.

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  6. that was quite a write up. a quality read on a Sunday afternoon :)

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  7. A tough subject dealt very profoundly, it is best to take everyone and everything at face value!

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  8. You are certainly a motivator !
    interesting thoughts and perspectives subh !
    good work.

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  9. What an excellent post...very informative,very analytical & so very engrossing.
    I too wrote a post on dealing with change but it is from a different angle altogether http://jeeteraho.blogspot.in/2011/03/baggage-from-past-shed-it-fast.html

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  10. Betrayal is really hard to cope with..Bitterness is something that makes us even more depressed..Very nicely written!

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  11. What always hurts me is when people say one thing in front of you and then turn around and say something else a week later, many times, simply because they goofed up.. I see this happening a lot and with people you work and you have respect for.. Ultimately that goes away, but what is even more annoying is that the person simply does not realize.. Very apt.

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  12. @Vinay - I am not part of any organization. I am glad, though, that you found this post therapeutic. And you have correctly identified acceptance as the end of the grief process that I have written about. Hope you will keep coming back to visit SJD.

    @Alpana - It is wonderful to receive such an encouraging comment from someone who is a master of writing about feelings and emotions.

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  13. Great perspective and so many lessons of life neatly packed in a blog post. I think I should take a print out and keep it for future reference too..

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  14. @Deb - Glad it made for a quality Sunday afternoon. The beer must have helped. :)

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  15. @specs buffy - Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would not entirely agree with taking everyone at face value. In my opinion, it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all, and apply the same to trust, hope, charity, the works. The aspect of the unknown is what makes human life such an adventure, isn't it?

    @Dee - Thanks man, so glad that you found it motivating.

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  16. @Indu - Your blog and its posts are more popular than you will imagine. I clicked through to your link, and when I saw it I realized that I had read that post before, perhaps even before writing this one, and looking back, I see that it is very likely that your post along with my experiences may have triggered my writing this post in some ways. Glad you liked this post. Appreciation from specialists like you is what makes the day for generalists like me.

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  17. @Ana_treek - Betrayal is also a door opening to let new learning enter our lives. And like you said, bitterness only delays receiving that learning.

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  18. @Rajesh - Glad to have you here, and thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. What people do not see is that when they let others down, they are really saying more about themselves than about the other. While it may irritate us that they are not able to realize their hypocrisy, it helps to focus the learning that we acquire - this eases the irritation.

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  19. Very insightful Shobha Da...! :)

    I think there is a lil lesson everybody could use scattered about this post of yours... Loved it.

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  20. Sheer Awesomeness! Am already feeling good about various things that was disturbing from 2-3 days now..

    Read your post @ the right time.

    Thanks a ton for this post.

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  21. Bitterness, reproach, sense of betrayal - I feel is purgatory! But it's only after we have moved on, do we realize what a waste of emotions it was. Certainly not worth the sleepless nights, mind numbing anger..

    A very inspiring post written with rare maturity.

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  22. thought provoking indeed !

    "It feels foolish to have been wrong, and it feels very foolish to have been let down by those you trusted"

    loved it !!!

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  23. Inspirational! Do you practice Buddhism by any chance? I just heard a monk speaking through your blog.Honestly, I find striking similarities in what a Buddhist monk told me in Bhutan and what you wrote today!

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  24. amazing timings , I found this writeup as if you have written for me...

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  25. only you could present a topic which has been written and debated again and again over the years in such a novel, thought stirring way ! loved the post to the core . . keep posting . .

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  26. A really inspiring blog to help tide through changes. Moving on is a part of life and one has to do it without looking back. I need to re-read your writing and practice some of what you have written!

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  27. @Pranita - For a second I thought you were commenting on my blog by mistake, that you actually wanted to comment on Shobha De's blog, and then I figured you are not at your keyboard best this morning. Thanks a lot for finding some of the tidbits that I put in all over for discerning (and searching) readers like you, shishtah!

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  28. @Haritha and Bhupendra - I have found that the moment I open out the windows of my soul and invite the world in, I am presented with just what I need most by the universe. So thrilled thta it was something I had a hand in, in a manner of speaking.

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  29. @Purba and Rahul - Appreciate your encouraging words. I am not so sure that it is sad that there is no easier way to learn these lessons, since then we wouldn't learn them as well, don't you think?

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  30. @Arnab - Yes, I try and live my life according to principles derived from the recorded and reported life and teachings of Buddha. The monk in Bhutan and you and I are but one, Arnab. Glad you liked what YOU wrote. :)

    @Maliny - I am blushing. So glad that you found something new in this post.

    @Richa - The only enemy is the one within. Our ego, our attachments, our identification, and our sense of ownership. Of course, it is easier said than done. Wish you all the best in your efforts.

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  31. Oopsy! I was actually thinking how similar Subho Da and Shobha De sounds wen i was commenting... n i ended up typing the latter!!!!! ;)

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  32. Very Nice post, got to promote and subscribe. Very fluid prose and great thoughts.

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    1. Welcome to SJD, Saket. And thanks.

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  33. Such clear thinking and writing. I love your thought process.
    Such a positive post. There's so much sense in here.

    The four stages before acceptance is very interesting. You get stuck in depression if you don't want to 'accept'whatever it is that you have to, right? :)

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    1. Thanks, Divya. Most instances of neurosis and depression can be linked to refusal to accept reality.

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  34. Thank you for making me read this Subho. :) Very thought provoking post :)

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  35. Nice sensible post. Did you consider death is also a form of change and most things mentioned here applies to that as well?

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    1. It is interesting you should bring that up, since this post originally was in the form of how to help a child cope with the loss of a pet. I did not want to directly address the life situation that I was writing about and was looking for metaphors, and you are so right, even death can be dealt with in the same way as other losses.

      Maybe dying too. Will find out and let you know, TF.

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  36. It is a very good post with better insight on grief. I really felt it very helpful. Thank you very much Subho.

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  37. Now that winter has fallen upon us
    I need something that's warm and honest
    And if I found someone who thinks
    That they'll be true to me
    I really wouldn't want to change it

    -Bob Mould

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  38. Mukund4:13 AM

    Thank you, Subho. Thought provoking write-up. It also reminded me of the philosophy, Life offers only one guarantee - Death.

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