Existential Psychology


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The goal of transformation is central to pretty much every philosophical system that has ever existed. We access the very best within us when we strive for that higher plane of consciousness, when we seek to understand ourselves and the world better. The desire to rise above the mundane should be supported and encouraged, it’s self-actualization in action.

The problem is that many of us hope for the bolt of lighting, the clap of thunder, for some epic moment where suddenly everything changes, for that ‘aha!’ experience where just like that enlightenment is reached. We want it to be fast and easy. We might consume drugs in the hope that they’ll provide the illumination we seek. We look for shortcuts.

But the caterpillar doesn’t just suddenly turn into a butterfly, metamorphosis takes time and work within the cocoon. Human transformation is the same. To want it to happen all at once misses the whole point of self-actualization, it misses the reality that growth occurs on a continuum, that it’s a steady and constant striving forward. It’s actualizing potentialities and then slowly but surely building upon them, it’s an infinite number of small changes that add up to the big change.

The real danger of the all at once attitude is that it discounts legitimate progress, it judges real change as not good enough simply because it’s not at the desired magnitude, causing us to get down on ourselves or even quit. But the desired magnitude is itself wishful thinking. Maybe those sweeping, epic, all at once transformations have happened for a few people but for the vast majority of us the equation is time + effort = results. We can’t bypass the struggle, the hard work, the slow but steady plodding forward. Actually we wouldn’t want to because transformation depends upon that process, just like fruit depends upon the branches, trunk, and roots of the tree.