We all go through changes as we move through life. Some of these are minor and not that impacting. For instance, you might gradually stop frequenting places you used to visit or lose touch with casual friends. Other changes are major, such as graduating from college, changing jobs, or beginning and ending serious relationships. Some other changes, however, are not only major in terms of outward effects, but also in terms of how they affect our world view and sense of ourselves. Have you ever experienced a profound change such as this, one that rocks you to the core and causes you to question core beliefs that once seemed certain to you? These “earthquake” type changes can feel scary and leave us feeling as if we are in a never-ending state of flux. In many instances, however, the upheaval we experience during these times can spur positive developmental growth.
Katie’s experience aligns with this type of change. Katie moved to the area from a different state. She was raised in a conservative religious environment and lived her life in accordance to it. Upon spending time in a new city, Katie started to interact with many different types of people who had diverse belief systems. Katie eventually fell in love with a man from a completely different religious and cultural background. While this relationship was satisfying, it was also challenging, as it led Katie to reflect upon her beliefs and discuss them with someone close to her who had different views. As Katie became more grounded in her new surroundings, she began questioning her belief system and even wondered if she would have to abandon it. Katie longed for the certainty that was once such a given in her life, but it all felt more complicated. As time went on, Katie forged a new relationship with her beliefs. She still loved and held to many aspects of her upbringing. However, she also became more comfortable deciding for herself what she really believed and acting in accordance to it. She also learned that she did not have to abandon her old self completely to integrate new ideas and relationships into her life. Once Katie emerged from the other side of this conflict, she felt greater peace and satisfaction.
Robert Kegan (1994) talks about these types of profound life changes as a process of adult development. He speaks of adults making mental shifts and moving from places where they are “socialized” and see life through the lens of their own cultural surrounds, to a place where they are more “self-authoring,” and defining their own relationships to these surrounds. Of course, this process can be a gradual one, with moments of uncertainty and conflict along the way. However, people who experience this shift often feel a greater sense of clarity and confidence as they move toward self-authorship in their lives. You might be experiencing changes in perspective like this in your life right now. If you are, know that even though developmental growth can be painful, the peace that emerges after the storm is often well worth the ride. Should you need to talk through things as you experience profound changes in your life, know that there are listening ears and empathic support available. In the meantime, hang in there and enjoy the journey as best you can.
If you are facing a major growth or change and need help or insight, contact Sara at Sara@insightbrookline.com or through this website.
* Reference: Kegan, R. (1994). In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press