The psychology of change

Change is something that we all experience at multiple times throughout our lives, but it is by no means the easiest thing to go through. Change can involve an entire recalibration of our mind and everything we know; a phenomenon that has the potential to be quite damaging, especially to young people. 

Kurt Lewin curated a three-step model for organisational change, which is a model that can be adapted and applied to almost all real-world examples of change that we experience. For example, in the context of moving to university, and starting a new life in a new place.

The first stage is what Lewin calls the ‘unfreezing’ phase. This stage involves recognising the need for change, to then be able to prepare for it. In the university context, this would be the packing and organisation stage before the move, but in reality, preparation is hard to fully commit to when the environment that you are changing to is still unknown. Therefore, this stage happens after the change, and our brains play catch-up. This is damaging, as not only are we getting used to academic life but the new environment takes time to get used to. This allows room for homesickness to kick in, as the change is fresh and the remnants of the ‘old life’, as it were, still remain and are the norm.

The next stage is the ‘changing’ stage. This is the actual implementation of the preparation or desire to change, but when change happens too quickly, it can be very difficult. Working out both how to change, and why change is needed should not happen while the change is happening, purely because of the length of time that this takes. The more prepared one is for change, the easier it is, but as explained before, some circumstances do not allow for this.

The final stage is the ‘refreezing’ stage, which involves cementing the changes that have been introduced. The problem is, when the first two stages overlap and change is not thoroughly prepared for, the ‘refreezing’ stage never really happens, or at least it happens in tiny intervals before being ‘unfrozen’ again. This is incredibly damaging because it means the entire process above needs to be repeated again from scratch, a strenuous act with many mental health detriments. The phase that we, as students, are at in our lives also makes this stage hard, because the next few years involve multiple massive changes that never really get ‘frozen’ for long enough.

Healthy adaptation to change hinges on extensive preparation, as a lack of it will speed up the psychological process described above. Change also takes time, and patience is needed to ensure that it is healthy. If the adaptation to change is not healthy, the process will have to start again from the beginning, rendering the time taken to change thus far useless. Some things cannot be sped up in life; adapting to change is one of them. as I have discovered.


About Author

Sam Hewitson

Travel Editor - 2019/20

Editor-In-Chief - 2020/21

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May 2022
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