chapter  4
34 Pages

Personality and Transformation in me Face of Adversity

Accounts of personal transformation abound in literature, biography, autobiography, in the narratives of individuals who have been victims, and occasionally even among those who have victimized others (cf. Grass, 1990). Such changes are captured well in the reflections of a young father of an acutely ill newborn:

Right after she was born, I remember having a revelation. Here she was, only a week old, and she was teaching us something-how to keep things in their proper perspective, how to understand what’s important and what’s not. I learned that everything is tentative, that you never learn what life is going to bring. I realized that I shouldn’t waste any more time worrying about the little things, (unpublished)

In this observation, made by a woman with infertility:

It has made me a stronger person, and has made me appreciate children so much more. It took determination and hard work to gain this strength, but it was worth the effort, (unpublished)

And in this description of personal transformation by a woman living with a painful chronic illness:

Living with this disease has taught me so many precious things that I wouldn’t have learned if I were healthy. I guess the most important things it has taught me are to appreciate what life can hold for you every day and to be grateful for the loving relationships in your life. It’s taken a long time for me realize this, (unpublished)

Changes such as these are reported regularly despite the contextual and interpersonal pressures against personal change (Baumeister, 1994) and people’s tendencies to select social environments that homeostatically interrupt exceptional personal changes (Watzlawick, Weakland, & Fisch, 1974). Social psychologists have argued persuasively that the more stable a person’s social environment, the more difficult it may be for him or her to experience personal change. The pervasive tendency to expect consistency in others (Jones & Nisbett, 1971) creates social pressure on us all, including those facing adversity, away from significant personal changes. In view of these potent homeostatic forces, any evidence of transformative experiences during life crises is all the more remarkable.