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  • Rachel Gillibrand

Coping with change by Lewis Carroll

In a letter to Isabel Standen, a young friend of his, the author Lewis Carroll has some wise advice to impart on how to deal with change:


I can quite understand, and much sympathise with, what you say of your feeling lonely, and now what you can honestly call ‘happy’. Now I am going to give you a bit of philosophy about that – my own experience is that every new form of life we try is, just at first, irksome rather than pleasant. My first day or two at the sea is a little depressing; I miss the Christ Church interests, and haven’t taken up the threads of interest here; and, just in the same way, my first day or two, when I get back to Christ Church, I miss the seaside pleasures, and feel with unusual clearness the bothers or business-routine. In all such cases, the true philosophy I believe is ‘wait a bit’. Our mental nerves seem to be so adjusted that we feel first and most keenly, the dis-comforts of any new form of life; but, after a bit, we get used to them, and cease to notice them; and then we have time to realise the enjoyable features, which at first we were too much worried to be conscious of.


Suppose you hurt your arm and had to wear it in a sling for a month. For the first two or three days the discomfort of the bandage, the pressure of the sling on the neck and shoulder, the being unable to use the arm, would be a constant worry. You would feel as if all comfort in life were gone; after a couple of days you would be used to the new sensations, after a week you perhaps wouldn’t notice them at all; and life would seem just as comfortable as ever.


So, my advice is, don’t think about loneliness, or happiness, or unhappiness, for a week of two. Then ‘take stock’ again and compare your feelings with what they were two weeks previously. If they have changed, even a little, for the better you are on the right track; if not, we may begin to suspect the life does not suit you. But what I want specially to urge is that there’s no use in comparing one’s feelings between one day and the next; you must allow a reasonable interval for the direction of change to show itself.


Sit on the beach, and watch the waves for a few seconds; you say ‘the tide is coming in’; watch half a dozen successive waves, and you may say ‘the last is the lowest; it is going out.’ Wait a quarter of an hour and compare its average place with what it was at first, and you will say ‘No, it is coming in after all.’



With love, I am always affectionately yours…

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