Adapting to Change in Your LIfe, 2
In Part 1, we saw how adapting to change has become constant in the 21st century; here we focus on the Self, and the nature of authentic change.
In some respects our culture seems addicted to very rapid change. There’s a huge distinction to be made between the superficial churn that often characterizes our society, and deep changes or transitions in human life where something fundamental shifts.
Meaningful vs. Meaningless Change
Simply because our way of life is saturated with change doesn’t make all change meaningful or significant to the individual, or in line with the priorities of the self. As a 21st century therapist, I’m well acquainted with clients in work situations who must deal with continual ever-churning change, and continual demands for adaptation — but where the required change in no way serves the individual’s true nature or need for growth. Often, it doesn’t even enable them to better perform their work roles. Change of this type is often a major source of burnout.
Yet, some change is meaningful. It can help us to feel that we’re more aligned with our deepest selves, with who we really are, and that we are able to live in a way that honestly reflects our deepest values and yearnings.
As we move through the life cycle, it is this kind of change that we really need. If we can’t find it, life tends to remain superficial , and we find ourselves increasingly alienated, and lost. As C.G. Jung put it: “Only what is really oneself has the power to heal”.
Change and Resilience
Many will tell you that change is good, if it is “more adaptive”. But we have to be quite careful with this. It depends what we mean by “more adaptive”. Do we mean that the change in question allows the individual to express and live out more of themselves, more of who they are at the deepest level? Then, from a /a-midlife-transition point of view, that is genuinely good. Such adaptation serves the person’s individuation, the on-going process of the individual becoming more and more who they truly are.
However, if “adaptive” change means that the individual merely alters themselves to survive under conditions hostile to their true identity, this clearly doesn’t serve individuation. It would very likely not be a good thing for the soul to be “well-adjusted” in North Korea, or Nazi Germany.
There is a persistent self, or identity in the deep levels of the psyche, that each of us possesses. We ignore this reality at our peril.
The Self as Abiding
Our era perceives everything as being in continuous, relentless flux. The human self is commonly seen as completely malleable, insubstantial and re-structurable. Yet the self is a solid, persistent reality. It is essential to our resilience in adapting to change that we experience that reality, often symbolized by an ancient tree, with deep, persistent roots:
or by mandalas:
A key part of /a-midlife-transition for those undergoing major life transitions is enabling individuals who may be overwhelmed by the challenges of adapting to change, to realize that there is a persistent solid center to the self, on which they can rely.
In the next post on this subject, we’ll look in more detail at just how this can occur,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst