I wrote yesterday about Viktor Frankl and the profound insights he gained whilst experiencing and surviving a Death Camp. It's interesting that his is not the only instance where learning how people behave comes out of the darkest places.
Take, for example, the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist who studied the emotional pathology - the journey of emotions - of people who were told that they were terminally ill. Grim stuff, but very revealing. Kubler-Ross observed that people inevitably go through the same sequence of emotions following the worst of news, but end the emotional roller-coaster with a much more positive frame - IF they are told the truth early enough.
Her model of emotions was later developed by Virginia Satir and others, such that now this model has not just passed into general management training but also into popular entertainment. (I have even seen illustrations of this in episodes of 'The Simpsons' and 'House'.)
Why? Because it seems that whenever we are given unpleasant surprises, bad news that we cannot avoid, we are emotionally wired to go through these emotional stages very predictably. If I am told I am going to lose my job, then this emotional sequence will kick in, no matter how informed or sophisticated I may be.
[The diagram is from our Change Management course, and we are running a one-day accredited version this summer.]