Transition is a stage of labor that is characterized by emotional volatility including anger.  It is the stage between the “passive” phase of allowing the cervix to dilate and the “active” phase of pushing the baby out.

Over two decades ago I was a childbirth educatorpregnant and a doula.  During this time I also gave birth to my daughter.  After a couple days of labor and using traditional methods to stimulate labor (walking, castor oil, etc) it was determined that I was “failing to progress” and I decided that moving to the hospital for an oxytocin drip was in order.

Oxytocin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that stimulates uterine contractions.  It is responsible for menstrual cramps, nipple sensitivity, and the “bang” in orgasm.  When administered by IV it can induce strong, demanding, and uncomfortable contractions.  Pregnant women that take this route to induce a labor find the contractions come back-to-back, are strong, and frequently unbearable.

My reaction?  I went to sleep.  Apparently I went to the hospital to get a good nap after a couple days of slow and uneven labor.

A strong contraction woke me up from my slumber.  I was confused and angry.  I demanded the doctor shut off the drip. I was impatient while she considered my order.  (Of course I could have just flipped the switch off myself, but somehow it seemed that only the doctor had the authority.)  I was very irritable.  I felt someone had snuck in and turned up the oxytocin drip way up while I slept.

Another contraction was upon me and I jumped out of the bed and headed the three feet to the in-room toilet.  Although my last cervical check had me only 70% dilated, with the next contraction I began pushing propelled by my anger.  I was hoping no one would notice, since I had not been given permission to push yet.

It is interesting to be knowledgeable enough to suspect I was in transition and also be completely swept away by the disorientation of the transition stage of labor.  The somewhat predictable emotional reaction that women have during transition (which lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half) is intriguing.

This last week or so I have been experiencing a great deal of anger and general hostility arising.  I could not put my finger on what the source was when the idea of transition popped into my mind.  It has been my experience that emotionally uncomfortable periods are frequently followed by a lighter and more pleasant emotional climate that feels like a breakthrough.  I had thought that the uncomfortableness was simply stuff arising to be released.  When the releasing was done, I was left in a clearer space.

Perhaps that is what is occurring in transition also, or maybe my previous interpretation of the discomfort was inaccurate.  Could it be that just the change process itself leads to emotional funkiness?  Maybe I am not releasing previously held anger, but instead anger is simply arising do to the change process.

This insight suggests a different line of questioning:

  • What can I be to change with perfect ease?
  • What am I resisting letting go of that if I did let go of would allow me to create a completely different reality?
  • What do I know that I am denying that I know?
  • What can I choose today that will facilitate greater awareness?
  • What am I choosing that is keeping me trapped?


Doubt and Motivation

If I offered you $100 or $200 which would you take?

$200 of course.  But studies indicate that some people actually prefer the $100.  A friend of mine does research in behavioral marketing.  One of her recent studies explored the interaction between size of reward and time from reward and how that influenced people’s choices.

Yes, people will take the $200 if it is a simple choice between $200 and $100, but if they are offered a choice between $100 now or $200 at a later date, their decision is influenced by how long they have to wait to receive the $200.  They might go for the $200 if it is next week, but if it is next year they most often opt for the $100 now.

This phenomena also explains why people engage in addictive behaviors and do not eat or exercise in ways that support their long term health.  I’ve discussed this before in an earlier post:  How drug addiction is like heart disease.  We tend to value short term rewards over larger and more valuable long term rewards.  This is seen on all levels of human activity from environmental policy where short term profits are valued over the long term cost of pollution to healthy activities where the comfort of an alternative activity (e.g. watching TV, sleeping in) is valued over the beneficial activity (going for a walk, meditating).

This willingness to sell ourselves short is really due to two things:  1) doubt that the distant reward will manifest as planned and 2) lack of motivation.  These are two of the classic obstacles to spiritual development or adopting and maintaining any healthy behavior.  Doubt is the one to tackle first, since lack of motivation can actually be a manifestation of doubt.

If we doubt that an activity will benefit us, we will naturally have low motivation to engage in that activity.  If part of us knows that the activity is our best choice, but other parts are lagging behind, then our first goal will be to dispel any last vestiges of doubt.  The best way to do so is to thoroughly investigate the activity.  We can do this investigation by using the internet, talking with authorities, or by finding out from others if the activity has benefited them.

If we cannot decide if the new activity will really give us the results we want, sometimes it is helpful to compare and contrast our current activities to the proposed one.  Then the question is which one would benefit us the most.  Once all doubt is gone, motivation may naturally arise.  Certainly this type of investigation activates motivation.

If motivation is still lagging, then the key is to put oneself in a environment where the activity is the norm.  If you want to give up TV and start walking more, then hanging out with TV watchers will naturally demotivate you, while having friends that walk a lot will inspire you.

Reviewing your reasons for undertaking the change is also a good way to stay motivated.  In addition, it is useful to spend time affirming your goals and staying cognizant of what behavior contributes to positive growth and what behavior doesn’t.  The time to do this is well before you start struggling with motivation.  Prevention is the best way to stay motivated.

Human Nature

School has started up again.  My first lesson in Rio Salado BHS205 – Therapeutic Intervention Models is to write an essay on my beliefs of human nature, how people develop problems, and the most effective ways to help them.  These are my thoughts:

I believe that humans share fundamental universal needs. These needs include connection, physical well-being, honesty, peace, meaning, fun, and autonomy. If the needs of a person are not met, then it is human nature for that person to seek to meet that need. People use a lot of strategies to get their needs met. For instance, someone that is not getting enough appreciation may react to that state by feeling angry, sad, or perplexed. They may seek to get the need for appreciation met by complaining, by striking out at someone, by working harder, or by asking for appreciation. Some strategies may work better than others in getting the need met. Many people do not use effective methods for getting their needs met because they either have not learned effective ways and/or they are not clear on what their need is.

People, their circumstances, and their reactions to those circumstances are a result of causes and conditions that are extremely complex and multi-faceted. Both genetics and environment play a role in creating the experience a person has of life. However, wondering about what has caused a person’s current experience or circumstances is not as important as applying strategies that can lead a person away from an undesirable circumstance to the one that is more optimal. I am a practical person. The past is harder to influence than the present. While lousy genetics and a terrible upbringing may present obstacles to achieving a person’s desired state, I believe all obstacles can be overcome.

A problem is anything that is unwelcome or unpleasant. Not all problems reach a level that instills a person with motivation to change. Many “problems” are either tolerated or “dealt” with using ineffective strategies. The threshold for personal action to change varies with people and is dependent on a person’s tolerance for discomfort and belief that change is possible. It is the individual that decides what is a problem and what is not.

All problems stem from a person having an unmet need and attempting to get a universal need met in ineffective ways. As such, any solution must apply methods to satisfy the unmet need. However, before a solution can be determined, an awareness of the problem must develop. Even when people are aware they have some problem, they may not have examined the problem or their life deep enough to realize where the problem is coming from.

For example, the apparent cause for a DUI may be that they were unlucky enough to have been driving down a street with a sobriety check point. A deeper reason for the DUI was that they made the faulty decision to drive after drinking. Another reason may be that they made the decision to drink. Deeper than that we may find the person was driven to drink by a need to escape or a need to have fun. Having fun is a universal need and the need to escape may be due to feeling pain from having another universal need like connection, meaning, or ease not being met.

The solution a person adopts will depend upon the level of problem they discover. If driving down a street with a sobriety check point is the cause of their DUI then the solution is to be more careful what streets they drive on when drunk. If they find they are using alcohol to escape from the pain of unmet needs (and do not like the consequences, i.e. DUI) then they can adopt strategies to get their needs met and/or alternative methods to care for themselves when they are in pain.

As a helping professional, I can help people identify what is the root cause of their problems and/or dissatisfaction. Incredible changes can arise from someone simply adopting a worldview that is based on awareness and non-judgment. This is the first step. After the problem is identified, or perhaps even more helpful, after the person identifies the kind of life they want to live, I can help the person plan strategies that will create that life and eliminate problems. This is the second step, deciding what strategies to use and coming up with a plan. The heart of the plan is that we cannot change other people, places and things directly, but that we can set up the conditions for both external and internal changes. Then, in order to implement the plan, often new skills need to be developed. I can help the person identify what skills they need/want and guide them in developing them. This is a dynamic process of change with each step giving feedback and informing future growth.

Gladding, S.T. (2005). Counseling theories: Essential concepts and applications. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Rosenberg, M.B. (2005). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Encinitas, CA: Puddle Dancer Press.