When You Don’t Know What to do Next…
When people are facing crises or major life transitions, it’s not uncommon for them to feel that they “don’t know what to do next”.
When we’re dealing with complex unfamiliar situations in our lives, it’s very easy to feel that we don’t know what to do next. To feel that we can’t evaluate and make decisions about the various options before us. Or else, that we can’t even identify an option that seems workable or viable. Sometimes we can feel that we are completely in the dark.
It’s not uncommon for people to find that their life situation is comfortable and well-adapted, and then suddenly to find themselves in very unfamiliar territory. For instance, someone may be in a work environment that seems familiar and predictable for a long time, and then may suddenly find that their work environment changes dramatically and in unexpected ways. Or, an individual may go along in a particular mode of life or lifestyle for a long period of time, and then, relatively suddenly find that they can no longer take for granted assumptions that they have long held about their lives. This is often the case in midlife transitions or other life transitions.
When life leads us in an unanticipated direction, it’s important, first of all, to accept the reality of the change. This can be a very demanding step, when something unexpected and deeply unwelcome has come into our lives. The process of coming to terms with a new situation, or an old situation seen in a new light can be formidable. Certainly, it can require us to treat ourselves with deep compassion.
A Changed Perspective
Going through a major change in life can create a very strong sense of disorientation. Sometimes, when we have taken something as a certainty in our life, and that fact or state of affairs disappears, it can seem like life has been completely turned upside down.
Consider an individual whose long-term marriage has come to an abrupt and unexpected end. Such a person may have a deep feeling of familiar patterns in his or her life that seem like “just the way it is”. The same may be true of a person who has worked for the same organization, or in the same job for many years, and has their employment come to an end. Such situations often produce feelings of enormous loss and confusion.
It’s not only changes in the external world that can have this kind of effect. Sometimes our inner world can be profoundly shaken up by new realizations and deepening insights into our lives. I have worked with many individuals who came to an insight, sometimes suddenly, that they could not continue “doing the same old same old” in some important area of their lives. This could involve their profession, their primary relationships, living in a certain cultural milieu, or many other areas of life. It can be a very arresting thing to come up against a part of oneself that is suddenly aware that “I can’t do this anymore!”
When I Just Can’t Face It
One possible response, when we’re confronted with a dramatic change in perspective, is denial. We can simply act as if the new and possibly unwelcome thing that is impinging on our awareness just doesn’t exist. This may be a partially conscious decision, or it may be something that we do more or less unconsciously. We can carry on acting and reacting as if the new state of affairs didn’t exist at all. When that happens, it doesn’t seem very difficult to know what to do next; it seems natural to do what it is that we have always done.
The only trouble is that, as the saying goes, facts are stubborn things. New realities in our lives will not disappear simply because we don’t choose to acknowledge them. We can keep acting as if the new reality doesn’t exist, but it does, and on some level, we probably actually know that. Try as we might, we can probably only fool ourselves for so long, and give ourselves the message that nothing has changed. Whether it is a reality in the outer world, or the inner world, the disorienting change is likely going to make its presence felt.
The other alternative is that we may actually succeed in fooling ourselves for a very long time. It would be a very sobering awareness to realize that we had deluded ourselves, in the very autumn of our lives.
We cannot change anything until we accept it.
The Mystery of What to do Next
Let’s suppose that we accept that we’re in a complex new situation in our lives, that our perspective has changed, and that we’re deeply disoriented. It can be very hard for us if we realize that we just don’t know what to do next. What can we do in such a situation?
The most important thing we can do is to try and sit with the new situation and to look at it without flinching. In many cases, this may involve an element of grieving. Having patience for ourselves, and giving ourselves time and space to allow an answer to emerge from the depths of our unconscious mind, may be fundamental to getting to the place where we know what to do next. Connection with a supportive and insightful Jungian = may be of great assistance in allowing the answer to emerge fro deep within us.
Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,
© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario