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Adapting to Change in Your LIfe, 2

September 1st, 2014 · adapting to change

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.

adapting to 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 depth psychotherapy 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.

adapting to change

 

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:

adapting to change

 

or by mandalas:

adapting to change

A key part of depth psychotherapy 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

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Ocskay Bence | Dreamstime.com  ;  Morgan  modified ; Dave Conner modified ; Jennifer Woodard Maderazo modified
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Adapting to Change in Your Life, 1

August 24th, 2014 · adapting to change

Whether we like it or not, 21st century life has made adapting to change a constant feature of our lives.

adapting to change As depth psychotherapy well knows, it wasn’t always so for the human race!  If we look at our ancestors in the paleolithic age, we know that social and technological change was vastly slower.  It wasn’t much faster in ancient Egypt or China or the Middle Ages and was in fact a great deal slower right up until the 18th century, when the industrial revolution started to bring change at an ever more rapid pace.

Endless Change

The pace of change in human life is still increasing — the automobile age, the computer age, the internet age, the digital age — and on, into the future. Today, we’re thoroughly inundated with change, and must continuously adapt.  We’re also bombarded with the message of the necessity of adapting to change. In fact, there is a danger in our time that we might not properly distinguish between deep, personal change, and the continual background churn of modern daily existence. adapting to change How do we discern those changes in our lives which are truly fundamental, and adapt to them in a way that is authentic, and that furthers our individuation?

The Real Nature of Life Transitions

Some changes are far more profound than others in their implications. Change is so pervasive in our time, that we run the danger of what experts like Harvard’s John Kotter call “change fatigue”, which is a form of burnout that stems from endlessly needing to adapt to new circumstances. Yet we also need to be open and responsive to fundamental life transitions. We need to accept these changes, let their meaning permeate us, and deepen our understanding and feeling of our own individual lives. Such changes are related to the emergence of our deepest identity and true character. We know this type of changes by the way it involves our whole being. Such changes may be extremely difficult or joyous or profound.  They can involve such things as grief, loss, betrayal, guilt, genuine religious experience, existential crisis, profound shifts in our self understanding, disability, serious illness of a loved one, and loss — or discovery — of a passion, dream or ideal.

Common Stages in Change

Often, these changes at the deepest level are characterized by three elements.  The first may be characterized metaphorically or symbollically as a death to a certain identity or understanding of ourselves.  The third, symbolically is a rebirth to a new or different identity or experience of ourselves.  In between these two is what anthropologists such as van Gennep would call liminality, an in-between period where the old identity has been left behind, and the new has not yet emerged.  Often, depth psychotherapy can assist immensely in making the transitions between these phases, which, in the case of major life transitions, can often be no small thing.

Real vs. Inauthentic Change

adapting to change Genuine meaningful life change, while often associated with great upheaval, ultimately take us deeper into our true identity — into the Self, as Jungians would refer to it. This is fundamentally different from inauthentic superficial change, which often leads the individual into a more and more frantic spiral in the attempt to perpetuate to themselves and others the illusion of the false self. In the second part of this post, I’ll look more at the psychotherapy of authentic and inauthentic adapting to change, and the importance of an abiding sense of self in the midst of change.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Ocskay Bence | Dreamstime.com  ;  Morgan  modified ; Dave Conner modified ; Jennifer Woodard Maderazo modified
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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