Creating a sense of difference amidst the sameness

Fe reflects on what our experience of lockdown can tell us about our attitudes to change and stability more generally

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As the end of the summer holidays has come and gone, and term time is again upon us, it seems that for many this summer was more than a bit unusual. Much more time at home, no holiday away, holidaying in the UK rather than abroad, not visiting places indoor because they are not open in the usual way, not mixing with as many people as we usually would...there have been many, many differences. And yet, what I most hear people struggling with is the sense of sameness, the monotony, the repetitious nature of the days and weeks that have passed. This got me wondering about how experience was being structured to cause this very common discomfort.
 
Within the body of knowledge of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a number of useful distinctions have been identified to help understand how it is we construct our perceptions of life. They are called meta-programmes.
 
One of the meta-programmes deals with what we most commonly notice and prefer - sameness, difference, or sameness with exceptions, or sameness with difference.
 
If you sort for sameness, you are going to want things to be stable and to stay the same, and may find change difficult. On the other hand, if you sort for difference, you are comfortable with big changes frequently and will be uncomfortable with things staying as they are for too long. Of course, there is then a continuum between, with people liking stability with the odd exception, or with periodic big changes.
 
So how is this useful? Knowing your natural tendency is important, because it tells you what you will notice, and what will likely pass you by. It will help you understand what makes you feel comfortable and what is less easy for you in the context of change.
 
If you prefer change, it can be helpful when you feel stagnant to spend some time noticing all the small changes (and not so small ones) that you may not have been aware of. If you prefer stability, perhaps notice all the things that are unchanged despite the big shifts that have also taken place. There is always more there than we are currently noticing, and stretching your awareness to encompass more of it is a useful thing to do.
 
So what has your experience of 2020 been? Noticing and revelling in the changes and opportunities available to you as life evolves? Mourning the losses of things you were familiar and comfortable with, and a sense of discomfort with the uncertainty you now face? Both?
 
Whatever your experience as been, it is undoubtedly unique, understandable and fundamentally OK. Coming to know yourself, you can help the aspects of yourself that struggle when things do, or don’t change, and coach yourself through what’s going on for you.
 
If you feel you need support in developing insight into your patterns around change, relationships or well-being, get in touch.

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 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.

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