What does that even mean? Let me go back a bit to the beginning of my career in the field of psychology to share more about how I learned to relate to struggle, chaos, and challenges a bit differently.
I still remember sitting with one of my first mentors and discussing some of the challenges I was seeing in the homes I worked in with parents of autistic children. I was at times so overwhelmed with the struggle I witnessed and the limitations of what I could truly do in the time I spent with them each week. This feeling of powerlessness in the face of humanity and deep struggle was something that was not new to me and was actually the reason I went to grad school at all. So, finding it yet again while I was in grad school, trying to learn how to fix things for people, was a surprise. You see, I was pretty young and pretty unfamiliar with how change actually works.
My mentor, with so much compassion and grace for me and my immaturity in this area, had so many long talks with me about chaos. What he taught me was that chaos creates change. Change doesn’t occur in a vacuum where things are going so well that we just decide to make positive changes. Change often is bred on the wind of conflict, pain, and deep struggle.
What he explained was that change is so difficult for us as humans, that we have to literally be forced into it by the nature of our situations being so deeply unmanageable or painful that we just have to change.
This framework and way of thinking about struggle was different than I had been taught to think about suffering. You see, I, like most Americans, was taught to consider struggle something to overcome if not to avoid entirely. Even my deep and complicated feelings were considered something I should suppress or not have.
I was never taught that our struggles, pain, feelings, and suffering are guideposts to help show the way towards something different. Towards change and new possibilities.
Time and time again, I have seen this in practice. Chaos truly does lead to change. This is a belief that has helped root me in optimism about my clients, about myself, and about our world. I truly believe that by leaning into our challenges and simply just seeing them as messages about what we need or want to cultivate in our lives, we can lean more strongly towards change in a positive or healthy direction.
This is the hope that roots me even when our world feels so tumultuous, challenging, and overwhelmingly chaotic.
Days like today, Election Day, this is my mantra. Chaos creates change.
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"Watch your thoughts,
They become words.
Watch your words,
They become actions.
Watch your actions,
They become habits.
Watch your habits,
They become character;
It becomes your destiny."