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C
hange is inevitable. Sometimes it is predict-
able as we move through the seasons of
our lives, sometimes it's a choice we make,
sometimes it is forced upon us like a rude and un-
welcome guest who enters our home and messes
up our lives. The outcomes of life changes are un-
predictable, their meaning and importance in our
lives sometimes taking years to unfold. As the Dan-
ish philosopher Soren Kieerkegaard profoundly
stated: "Life can only be understood backwards but
you have to live it forwards." The changes that we
fear and dread can turn out to be our greatest mo-
ments, and the changes we seek and celebrate can
turn out to be our biggest disasters.
Some fifty years ago, two Navy researchers,
Homes and Rahe, created the now famous list of life
events and the stresses associated with them. The
most stressful events weren't just negative events,
like the loss of a loved one or a divorce, but also
seemingly positive changes, like taking a new job
or moving house. What seems clear is that whenev-
er there is change, the degree of control one feels
one has, is a critical variable. We all want life to be
predictable and the notion of control is part of that
fantasy. However, lack of control is the toxic ele-
ment of stress.
When change, enforced or chosen, comes,
it brings with it opportunities as well as pitfalls. As
creatures of habit we settle into routines, get com-
fortable with our environments, and much of our
life goes on habit and auto-pilot. In a way, this is
a good thing because it conserves energy for the
important things in our lives rather than having
to spend time and energy on what seems like an
acceptable routine. However, those same routines
and roles can become too much controlled by hab-
by Dr. Howard Rankin