The disorientation of change

Some people claim to enjoy change. I am not one of those people. I am thankful for the good that often results from change, but the process is not one that I desire or seek.

I remember one of my professors describing the two different ways people respond to new information: assimilation and accommodation.

Assimilation: incorporating new knowledge into the pre-existing system of viewing life. We respond in this way all the time. When we ask a friend what is new in their life or visit a new restaurant, we process the new information without much problem. This is the kind of type of change that response and catalog it into our worldview.

Accommodation: adjusting a schema to new information. This means adjusting your whole system of viewing life into a new system. THESE are the kinds of changes that are often difficult for everyone: when we learn that we have a chronic disease, when we move into a new culture and need to learn a whole new way of life, when we are betrayed by a long-trusted friend, when something happens to fundamentally change our beliefs and values. Not all of changes are necessarily bad, but they can certainly shake our foundation.


I recently graduated from a university, moved to a new house, and am about to start a new job. I have found that this transition has been a change of the “accommodation” magnitude. It feels like my whole world is a little unsteady. Especially in the first week of the transition my mentor gave words to how I was feeling–disoriented. It is as if everything that was familiar has been moved and is out-of-place. One morning I found myself overcome with thankfulness for being able to have moved my clothes dresser to my new place. This seemingly insignificant detail helped me that morning feel familiarity and stability when everything else seemed to be different. Silly as it is, it gave me relief from the disorientation for a minute because I knew exactly in which drawer my socks reside; at least something was still in-place. 🙂

I think being disoriented for now is ok. It’s not fun, but it points me back to the only Unchangeable One. God is my rock who does not change. In times like these, I find myself connecting especially with the book of Psalms. It is full of prayers that cry out to God in times of uncertainty and distress. In “lament psalms,” the writer calls to God in their pain, asking for relief and comfort while still praising the LORD because of the good things God has done and for who He is. Here is a few verses one of these lament psalms:

Psalm 18:1-2, 6 (ESV)

“I love you, O LORD, my strength.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold….

In my distress I called upon the LORD;

to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry to him reached his ears.

I find such comfort in viewing God as my stronghold who actually listens to my cries.  I could tell stories upon stories of God’s mercy to me.

Transitions can be messy (both literally and metaphorically), and I’m learning that it’s ok… just as long as the transition period is just that–a temporary period that doesn’t last forever. Soon I will adjust to the new way of life and it too will become familiar. For now, I seek the LORD for strength. He has never failed me, and I trust that He will continue to be a faithful provider.

Have you ever felt disorientation with change? How have you found that you cope with it?

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A Musing RePerson

I am a follower of Jesus who loves learning, hearing people's stories, and extending grace. I also struggle deeply with issues that are stigmatized (mental health, and gender/sexual identity, and chronic pain). I write to be a voice for those who have been similarly isolated.

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