Coping when what you rely on is no longer there

In this blog I talk about our 'assumptive world' and why it is it is hard when something happens that is so significant we can no longer rely on past assumptions.

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Listening to Roger Soloman speak recently about using EMDR with clients who are grieving, I was taken with the concept of the assumptive world. It resonated for me much more broadly than just in the context of grief.

Solomon described our assumptive world as “the set of assumptions about the world, the self, and others, that help one to feel safe, capable, and in control of what happens to oneself and, in some ways, those around you.” He notes that this gives us a sense of the universe as benign, of the world as meaningful and of our self as worthy.

When something happens that disrupts our assumptive world, be it a death, the loss of a relationship, of a job or any other significant shift in life, it can leave us with a number of effects. We may grapple with meaning, question our faith in things we previously just knew were true, ruminate about causes, responsibility and blame and/or feel guilty. It has a profound effect on our sense of our own self, and of others and the world.

These shifts may be caused by a single event that takes seconds, but our adaptation to them and integration of what has happened can take much longer. We have to let go of what was, and find our way forward through not knowing and discovering, until a new assumptive world begins to form. This is uncomfortable and can be difficult. It is, however, completely normal. It will ease with time, and new things will be possible.

If you are transitioning from one world to another, know that you are not alone, and that in time what makes no sense will find its resting place. And hang in there.

Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

Hi. I'm Fe, and I'm here to help you thrive, whatever life brings. I believe every client is unique, I work with you to help you explore, discover and grow in whatever ways are right for you. I work with a wide range of clients, both long and short term. I offer Psychotherapy, EMDR therapy and Couples Counselling to UK clients online and in Gainford, Co.Durham in North-East England. I am UKCP Accredited and an EMDR Europe Practitioner, and offer Clinical Supervision to counsellors and psychotherapists online and in person. Following a career in Organisation Development I became a therapist because it's my heart work. Before having my family and starting my private practice I worked in the NHS and mental health charities.


Go to the profile of Artemis Antoniou
6 months ago

Fe your article resonated with me, Thank you.  Helping me in many ways to understand my world at this time. Separated (just over 9 years) after being in a marriage of 28 years and trying so hard to restart & rebuild my life again on my own. Understanding your explanation on how one sets their "assumptive world" where there is "safety & control" and when something major disrupts it, why one feels this major impact.  Understanding that "a new assumptive world begins to form" which we create (set) and will feel again.  Thank you for this supportive & powerful message.