[This article was also published together with other authors at the ‘Skilled Helpers Collaborative’: tinyurl.com/dsja4q4h]
Transitions can be defined as “change from one form to another.” In physical life, change is inevitable. So, we (and all matter) constantly change. Our body that we occupied only a few years ago does not contain the same atoms anymore and might look quite different. All real estate erodes. Paradoxically, it’s that unstable matter that we shortsightedly consider as “real.” Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call “real” what actually is stable and doesn’t change, even in the long run? Isn’t, therefore, our soul more likely our real self?
The problem is that most people solely identify with their fragile bodily existence and not with their eternal spiritual being. We theoretically know that at some point in time, we’ll lose our stuff, and we’ll have to die. Because we tend to deny this for most of the time to satisfy the desire for stable security, change is rejected as well.
Seeing ourselves as spiritual beings solves the problem in that we get a real glimpse of everlasting life, even beyond our earthly journey. Therefore, I argue, this is the one big change we have to accomplish for a fulfilled life: to expect significant material losses and be ready to die during a lifetime to access our real self as divine beings.
What does it take to trigger such change? As explained before, we must, involuntarily or voluntarily, face loss and death. That’s why for many only major life events bring the necessary interruption in their protected sense of stable identity that leads to personal growth. Asking people about the reasons for their major transformations in life usually comes with narratives about some painful (because unexpected) material losses like, for example, losing a beloved one, losing one’s job, or health by getting sick.
Once awakened to this realization, going through change is still challenging. Social comparison and related peer pressure represent an essential factor for not wanting to change, respectively, to remain fitting in. I believe it is still very uncommon to live a spiritual understanding of life. It is popular to post spiritual quotes and be part of religious communities, but the courage to break away from the pursuit of status, prestige, wealth and material security is rare. The illusion that one can protect oneself against inevitable aging, loss and death with material things is too great.
It’s even difficult life situations, victimhood, and (relative) poverty that people defend against change. Research finds that people often justify the existing social system even when this comes at personal and collective costs. System Justification Theory posits that authoritarian ideologies and cultures, respectively ‘cultures of justification,’ which can also appear through inequalities in wealth in so-called democratic societies, motivate the often-unconscious belief of inferiority most strongly among individuals of underprivileged groups. What role a person takes in society seems less critical to her/him than a stable (and therefore seemingly secure) identification with whatever role.
In summary, it can be said that people with a worldview of an identity that seeks stability and security, regardless of its quality, prevent themselves (and others) from changing. In this way, they deny themselves access to their real selves, the spiritual self, and sooner or later they will be devastated if changes happen anyway, let alone regret not having thought about it earlier and changed voluntarily.