Transformation is a process of growth and life. Stagnation is a process of death and decay. I have experienced many times of transformational growth in my life. We all do. Whether it be the natural and inescapable process of our childhood, public or private schooling, marriage, raising children…it’s impossible to experience life without transformation.
Attitudes on transformation, however, vary widely. Some fight it tooth and nail, as if caught in a terrifying tsunami, grabbing onto whatever tree or structure they can, trying to rise above it and look down from a place of perceived safety. Others embrace it, acknowledge its place, and perhaps even learn to enjoy the ride.
One important result of transformation is change of perspective. Learning shifts paradigms, and experiential learning – learning attached directly to experience – can shift paradigms most rapidly and dramatically.
Looking back at my own transformational processes, I have come to realize how important they are, not to making me into new person, but to getting me in touch with the reality of my true self. The process is ALWAYS an uncomfortable one – sometimes intensely so! Whether it be an unexpected life change such as divorce or job difficulties, or my taking on a challenging program designed to stimulate personal growth, there will be tears, moments of weakness, and pain before the benefits can manifest. Each time, as I look back on how I was showing up, how I viewed myself, even how I viewed the world, I am amazed and gratified for these life processes. I am rarely so gratified while it’s going on, however.
While I have learned to respect the importance of growth experiences, I have been struck by how rarely they are appreciated by others. So many times, the friends or family of those experiencing radical transformation push back, and push back hard.
I recall in my prior life as a Mormon coming across an argument that the LDS church is anti-family, because sometimes, when a person (especially a youth) is converted, their new religion is rejected by the other members of their family. Examples are trotted out, of young people who were forced by their family to either reject their new-found religion or else be rejected by their family. If they choose to stay true to what they feel is their path, they are ostracized, and the family is “broken up.” This is used to “prove” that Mormonism is anti-family. What utter nonsense. The complete lack of respect and controlling, conditional love shown by this family is an indictment of that family. Insisting that he would be better off being forced back into that environment is a rather peculiar and short-sighted stance.
I’ve seen similar arguments raised against voluntary programs designed to jump-start personal growth. Programs such as Landmark Worldwide (of which I’ve heard), and Impact Trainings (of which I’ve experienced) involve large groups of participants in intense exercises, processes, and discussions oriented towards releasing limiting beliefs and self-defeating behaviors. People often come away from these trainings seeing the world in a whole new light, committed to a path more in tune with their core values, and letting go of the things in life that are keeping them in their smallness. Sometimes, that means letting go of people in your life who are toxic. Sometimes that involves divorce. Once again, as a graduate of Impact Training, I got to experience the power of conformity – accusations that the organization was “anti-family,” a “cult,” and on and on, ad nauseum.
It can often result that some of the greatest trials experienced in transformational growth are from “loved ones” full of angry denunciations. “You have changed!” in accusatory tones, as if this were automatically a bad thing. “Get right back in your box” seems to be the message, and the person caught up in this turbulent process must now undo every life lesson and painfully acquired insight, or else. The refrain can seem deafening, and unfortunately, it can sometimes have the effect of cancelling out all lessons, releasing the insights, and submerging back into the murk – selling out on your own soul. All that pain, all that effort, wasted. And if there’s one sure thing, it’s that the lesson will come up again, to be learned again in all it’s pain and glory, until we finally accept it, internalize it, and move forward on our path.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion basically states that every force results in an equal force in the opposite direction. Transformational change is inevitable, but so is resistance to that change. It’s sad that, so many times, that resistance comes from those who claim to love us.