Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘self-actualization

A Writer’s Meditation: Can People Change?

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This is one of my more experimental blog posts. I hope you find it useful.

People change in stories. I love that about writing.

In fact, if there is no change at all in a story, there is no story. So you’d better have change, you’d better account for the change, and you’d better understand just what change is going to do if you’re writing a story.

But in real life, it’s a lot murkier.

For years on end, it seems like people don’t change at all. For good or bad, their situations stay the same. (Though the way you approach your situation can indeed change, as if you’re changing the lens on a camera to get sharper emphasis, the actual mess you’re in stays the same day after day, year after year.) And it makes it harder to explain their stories, because a steady state does not — in general — tell a compelling story.

Now, someone else telling you the story of your life as they see it may indeed be compelling. That’s because they hit the high points. They usually skip the low points, or maybe make those low points into something that turned into grist for the mill and self-improvement galore. (And as I’ve said before, it’s all grist for the mill.)

But how you see yourself? How you see the folks around you that you’re closest to? How you see the situations you tend to be in, and what you do about them, and what happens after you’ve done (or not done) those things?

In general, we tend to see sameness in ourselves. Because we want to recognize who we are, cradle to grave; we want to know exactly why we’re doing what we are, even when sometimes that’s impossible; we don’t want to live lives without meaning and resonance and value.

That’s sensible, too. It’s a good evolutionary strategy.

But it messes with the thought of change. Because we all do change in our lives. We learn things. We improve, or sometimes don’t; we take the experiences we’ve had, and use them as a way to give the framework of our lives more meaning, more value, and more understanding.

Or at least, we should do this if we’re smart.

But it’s hard. So hard, it’s much easier to explain when someone else has changed, rather than recognizing it in and of your own self.

And recognizing you need new and different experiences for self-growth and actualization is even harder, sometimes, because it feels like a betrayal of the self and a loss of the framework of the person you thought you knew.

Ultimately, I think change is going to happen. But it depends on how much you “lean in” to it versus opposing it at every turn. And it’s conditional upon understanding that you, yourself, are still a work-in-progress…

My view, in summation, is that people do change. But they don’t always recognize it. And when they do recognize it, sometimes, they don’t like it very much.

The good thing about that? When you realize you don’t like something, you can change it to better fit yourself, your values, and your goals. Or at least you can change the way you look at it, in order to find more peace with what you’re dealing with and less stress.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 28, 2019 at 3:15 pm