Is your worldview crumbling? Welcome to the personal transformation swell
What are personal transformations?
Many of us have gone through or are in bigger life transitions. These are phases in which so much changes in our lives that our way of perceiving the World and being in it transforms. We all have for instance grown from being children into becoming teenagers and then adults. These are years in which we experience disillusion, feel lost, and then over time find new ways to make sense of the World and who we are in it.
I remember how as a kid, I did not question my mom’s opinion. If she would say that a person was bad, I would just stay away from her. But as a teenager I started having different impressions about people than those of my mom. My perception of her as a wise woman I could always trust started crumbling. I wondered, who can I trust then? How can I know who to trust? Over time a new way of perceiving situations and people emerged: I felt that I can generally trust myself, in some situations I can trust my mother and in others I rather trust some friends.
Through the transformation into a teenager a broader worldview, providing new possible interpretations and possibilities to participate emerged. This shift into more depths and freedom of choice characterizes successful personal transformations.
How do personal transformations start?
Being thrown into life transitions
Life transitions don’t stop when we become adults. Time to time there are external events which, like Earthquakes, mess up with our normal life and push us into questioning who we are, what we want and what is the meaning of all that we experience. This happens for instance when we, or someone dear to us, has an accident, an injury, an illness, or when a close person dies. It can also happen when we lose a job, have to move to a new place, go through a breakup or divorce.
Silent callings for transformation
Sometimes life transitions are not due to an obvious external event though. They can also grow silently in ourselves until we start noticing that we for example start losing interest in things we have been passionate about for years. We start observing how we function and interact with our family and friends in our everyday life and have the feeling that we play a role, we act but are not truly living our own life. In such moments there is a sensation of emptiness, dissonance, or rationally unexplainable sadness emerging. We may think: I have everything other people dream of, why do I feel so miserable? We may also feel trapped, stuck, a victim of our own life choices or the society we live in.
Life transitions can as well come as callings for new types of experiences. We may feel interested in listening to music we never paid attention to, learning to play an instrument, performing some type of art, painting or dancing. We may feel called to try out something new, like skydiving, to leave for an adventure on a bicycle, hike in nature, do yoga, meditation, or to join a silence retreat.
Being in the space in between
These can all be entry doors, swells, leading into a personal transformation, a “Wachstumschub” as I would say in German (an intense growth phase) in which the worldview we had so far crumbles and a new one emerges. In between there is a liminal phase, in which the old self we have been is not anymore, but the new one is not yet tangible. It can be a roller coaster phase, in which we experience depression, fear, ecstasy and everything in between.
When you are in a life transition it can feel very lonely and disorienting. You may wonder, what is happening with me? What should I do? How is this fitting into the bigger scheme of things?
Different types of practices and support can help during such times of transformation. I like how Bill Plotkin maps them into three realms, which I summarize here. As well, you are welcome to get in touch with me and share your story. I would be happy to see if I can help you to find some orientation.
Some food for thought:
- Bring to your mind a life transition in which you deeply changed, what did you start perceiving that you were not aware of before?
- Which ways of thinking about yourself and the world do already feel outdated to you?
- Which new ways of making sense of what is happening in the World did you recently develop?
- How did the way you look at yourself and the roles you identify with change?