A New Direction for My Life, #1: What Matters Now?
In my last post, I set out my goal of exploring what it would mean for us individually to find a new direction as we’re emerging from the pandemic.
There are times in life when we specifically need to search for a new direction for our lives. Often associated with major life transitions , these are times when we quite simply need to find something in our lives that works better for us than what we have been doing up to this point. These are the seasons in our life journey when life presents a different face to us than we’ve previously seen, and seems to expect a new and different response from us.
Often, these major life transitions can come to us because we have aged and matured and come to a new phase in our lives. The transitions into adulthood, through middle age, and into later life are three examples of such age-related transitions. On the other hand, some transitions occur because our individual circumstances have altered. Getting a new job, moving to a new city or having your first child would be examples of this kind.
Then again, some transitions that call us to go in a new direction come to us by means of a society-wide change or changes. This occurred in North America and Europe when World War 2 started, for example, and occurred again when the war ended, just as earlier it had occurred with the arrival of the Great Depression.
We’ve lived through the onset of the COVID-19 period, and its lengthy duration. Now, the end of this period is perhaps in sight, as nations like Canada and the US increasingly vaccinate their populations. As things gradually return to something more like—but not identical to—pre-pandemic normal, I would suggest that the transition we’re all going through is another one of these broad, society-wide transitions. It is likely that, in some respects, this transition will fundamentally alter the way that we relate to our environment, to others and to ourselves.
So, What Does All This Mean for Me?
You might be saying to yourself, “It’s all very well to go on about a ‘society-wide change’, but what does that actually mean for me?” And that is very much the key question!
There seems to be an emerging consensus among experts that society is going to look rather different in the post-COVID world, in ways that will make a difference to each of our individual lives. What follows is a list of some of the ways in which this is true.
Isolation vs. Community. For many of us, the COVID period has been about being isolated or “socially distanced” from others. This lack of interaction has been essential to prevent the spread of a very dangerous disease. Now though, there’s indication that the need for social distancing and the other health measures associated with COVID-19 is gradually going to disappear. So, in the near future, we’ll likely be able to start going to restaurants, or to have people other than family members in our homes. But, as the research of University of Georgia’s Prof. Richard Slatcher suggests, through the pandemic, many people have become more selective about who they choose to socialise with, as they replace casual social contact with stronger immediate family bonds and close friendships. Will this trend continue, post re-opening? No one is sure.
Changes to the World of Work. COVID has unquestionably altered the way that many people work. As indicated above, many people have moved into the mode of working primarily or exclusively from home. But that is not the only change that has occurred. As Linda Nazareth, a Senior Fellow of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa writes in a recent Globe & Mail article:
Is crisis mode our new normal in the work force? As the pandemic took hold in early 2020, it became clear that it was a case of “all hands on deck,” as everyone needed to step up to deal with a disruption the likes of which had not been seen before in our lifetimes. Workers were challenged to give their jobs their all, and many did just that. Now suddenly it is more than a year later, and for some it seems like the giving is never going to stop.
As the pandemic draws to a close, are things really going to go back to the old normal, or even to a new one where work-life balance is more than a phrase you see on communiqués from HR? Or will the reality be that the post-COVID-19 economy demands everyone keep going full-blast…?
Rich and Poor. The pandemic has had a double effect on the economy. There’s clear evidence that many people have been strongly negatively affected economically by the pandemic, while, for a segment of more affluent people has actually been saving more money than prior to the pandemic. Some people are going to be left worse off as a result of the pandemic, while some are actually doing better. What does this mean for our society, and for the individuals affected? As with the questions above, no one is sure.
What Changes? What Remains the Same?
There are clearly quite a number of areas where life is changing for many people. It’s clear that these changes affect different people in very different ways. We have experienced many changes, and we will continue to experience large impacts for quite some time. What will these things mean for our individual lives?
Part of the answer to this question is fixed. Social change, whether to our social interactions, the world of work or our economic situation will happen to us, and will have far-reaching impacts. Yet, there is the equally important question of how we will respond to these changes. Will we passively accept them, or will we make some concrete steps that affect the outcome for ourselves? This process of responding makes up a lot of what we mean when speak of finding a new direction for ourselves.
An important part of responding to change in our lives is, first of all to try and understand what the impact of external change upon us really is. These impacts will be both conscious and unconscious. They will involve concretely understanding what is that the change has brought into our lives. But then, and likely more importantly, we need to understand what the emotional impact of these changes upon us actually is. Are we feeling happiness, relief, sadness, anger or even grief over the things that are coming into being in our lives? To understand these feelings, we may well have to explore our own anxiety and depression, and the feelings that are associated with them. As a way of being compassionate to ourselves, it’s very important that we understand what the feelings are that we are carrying, both consciously and unconsciously about what has come to be in our individual lives.
My Own New Direction
When we really understand how the pandemic’s changes have impacted us, and take them in, we can begin to respond to them in a conscious way. This entails making choices in response to the changes that have occurred. For example, it may be that I recognize in myself a tendency to interact socially with others less, as a result of social distancing and lockdown. Yet if I become conscious of that tendency, I can ask myself, “Look, is this something that I want to occur?” If it is, then I can consciously embrace and accept it. If it isn’t, then I can take steps to counter the tendency, and to open myself up socially. The same is true of many, many different types of change that I might experience. As Jung would tell us, if we become conscious of what has happened to us, then we find new possibilities for responding to it, and for finding a new direction.
Jungian /a-midlife-transition can be an excellent way to explore the implications and impacts of changes in our lives, and also of coming to understand the meaning of major life transitions that we are undergoing. It can be an excellent tool for becoming more conscious of the events in your life, and for understanding the meaning and unfolding of your own journey towards wholeness.
With every good wish for your personal journey,