Uncertainty about what is ahead makes it hard to focus upon where the road is at today. Looking back at where the journey has been and remembering the safety found in memories of how things were comfortable, manageable, and predictable; there is a desire to go back to a place built in the castle of the mind. Living in the memory of the past and feeling the uncertainty of the present leaves fear of where the road is going and what will be there when I arrive. A destination is too much to fathom, to fearful to embrace; a place that having no certainty and no familiar faces. Looking forward to undefined potential reality which can be experienced the call of the destination is understood. Feeling anxiety in the present experience controlled by idealism about the past holds potential captive bringing ambivalence feeding the hesitation to move forward and embrace the destination: where the road is going.
There is a preoccupation that people in America have with achieving happiness. Observing the economic downturn and the impact upon people’s lives every day drives home the message that many people today have the right to be unhappy. Everyone wants to know the sense of well-being known as happiness — feeling content, satisfied, and even joyful. Sometimes people feel they need to make a major life change to feel happy, but other times they might derive happiness from just appreciating everything they have and the people close to them. It may be that the path to happiness is to be found in being able to negotiate change in whatever happens to us in life. In the study of life-span development in psychology, there is a paradigm of truth that is taught that says that in each stage of life, we must be building the skills, abilities, and information base to effectively negotiate the changes in life. One of the factors of unhappiness in life is having unrealistic or false expectations of the future. In other words, if something that we believe and experience today is believed to be true for all of time and every season of life, we may be disappointed in the future.
Last week, I watched a special on television special that reported that, “on December 23, 2008, the General Motors assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, shut its doors. It was the last plant in the Dayton, Ohio, area to do so … [a] new reality for Moraine—one defined by hardship, resilience, and the end of an era” (http://www.good.is/post/picture-show-the-last-days-of-general-motors-in-moraine-ohio/). This story is the stark reminder of how fragile the American economy is and the impact that the shift from being an industrial economy to a service is having upon the American worker. Gary Smalley (1998) writes that this generation of Americans is the first to not to have the expectation that there life will be better than their parents (The soul search: a spiritual journey to authentic intimacy with God). One of the ways that what is happening in our world may be described is by the emptiness that many are experiencing … troubled by moments of emptiness … that raises the question: Is this it—is this all there is? The answer may be described by getting perspective. Can experiences with such a radical change be peaceful, and even welcome, if viewed with a different mind-set?
It is very true that the way we view life can leave us thinking that life is unfair as suffering the consequences of changes engulfs the experience of life. You can start connecting life to a meaningful existence when you think in a new way about the meaning of life. One of the developmental deficits that is experienced by people is the deception that life will always be as it is today. George Kelley stated that the constructs of life are continually being renegotiated. It is disappointing and detrimental to what life can be to always look through the same binoculars. Tunnel vision in the hopes of life is a subtle form of self-deception. The problem that is faced in self deception is that it becomes a self-defeating behavior that has to be maintained: “Life is the art of being well deceived; and in order that the deception may succeed it must be habitual and uninterrupted” (William Hazlitt). Breaking free from self-deception is not an easy or painless task, it requires an awareness that how life is understood must be thought of in new terms to bring new meaning to existence.
The problem is that when we deceive ourselves, it is to maintain a sense of control that results from the anxiety of loss of control and feeling of helpless—hopeless, coupled with vulnerability. The results of the deception; the empty feeling left behind and the bad decisions that always births disappointment. Getting out of the trap is the secret and stop interpreting life in terms of disappointment and feeling like a victim. It has been well said that we all have problems: The question is what are you going to do about it? After a reasonable amount of time of experiencing and feeling the pain of the moment, we have to, sorta “suck it up” and figure out what is going to bring meaning to this thing that we call life?
Erickson, who was famous for the Life Stages Theory teaches, that there is a crisis of identity in every stage of life. When there are developmental occurrences, such as tragedy, stressful events, or death, it triggers a new search for identity, meaning, and purpose for existence. If the skills have not been developed in previous stages of life to make the transition, then skills must be built in the here and now to enable continuity and understanding of how to transition and continue to grow. When that does not happen, then life goes on, but there is not the ability to build a bridge to personal spiritual growth and maturity. So what are you going to do? You can wallow in the mud of life or develop yourself to move on.
Accepting and understanding the transitions in life is critical to a dynamic life that continues to grow and develop. Adjustment to new times, seasons, things, and people is necessary if we do not want to be stuck in the mud. Is it change that is the issue or that it forces one to think different, act different, and feel different? Let change be your friend not your foe …. Happiness is a moving target, but meaning is the arrow.