How understanding the Transition curve can give people hope, and improve their resilience

For years I have been stressing the importance of teaching the Transition/Change curve to Leaders and Managers in our organisations, because an understanding of the emotional journey helps people to understand that what they are experiencing post shock/trauma is a completely normal, transitory state beyond which they can travel. It helps stop people becoming hijacked by their own emotions.  It gives them understanding and insights to help them avoid helplessness and hopelessness  It makes people more resourceful and gives them HOPE, thereby enabling them to recover from their initial state of shock and anxiety.

My opinion is firmly backed up by the “Father of positive psychology” – Dr Martin E P Seligman. Early in his career Seligman studied learned helplessness in animals and then in people.  The helpless response occurs when the subjects feel powerless to rid themselves of an undesirable state, and become helpless.  He was fascinated by the exceptions…. Those who showed resilience in the face of challenges which rendered others helpless and without HOPE.

When the US Military decided to tackle the problem of soldiers returning from Afghanistan suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, they called upon the services of Martin Seligman to help them design a program for  “Building Resilience” .  The idea was to get their servicemen to build mental fitness as well as physical fitness, and thereby cope with the traumas of war.  That’s not to say that veterans will no longer need support to help them deal with the stresses of war, but at least they will have a better understanding of the emotions involved after trauma. They will also have learned some useful tools and techniques for getting control of thoughts and feelings and recovering to a positive emotional state.

So if it’s good enough for the US military there must surely be lessons that civilian leaders can take and apply in their own organisations.

These days the “Father of Positive Psychology” writes about “Learned Optimism” and the value of HOPE. According to Seligman it is important to teach people about the normal emotional responses to shock, grief, trauma so that when they have these experiences they know what to expect, and don’t get over anxious about what they are feeling….and spiral downwards into depression…..I completely agree with this……