Transitions and Changes
Transitions and Changes
Autumn, this is my favourite time of the year. I always loved the autumnal hues of the trees, going back to school, Halloween and Christmas. To me it was magical as the winds of change demand our attention, and the evenings get darker and longer.
Through-out life we go through a series of transitions. It’s human nature. The caterpillar transitions from a caterpillar to a chrysalis before finally changing into a beautiful butterfly. Trees endure all kinds of tumultuous weather. They survive by adapting, taking shelter and growing foliage before finally shedding leaves. Nature is a harsh and unforgiving cycle of life and death.
There is a lot of uncertainty with change. What will the future bring?
For the adolescent, like nature itself, change and transition is inevitable. As their mind struggles to adapt to the physical changes in their bodies, they also try to transition socially. Struggling with identity and belonging and with differentiation and individuation can be discombobulating and jarring.
Let’s look at a popular fictional character called Harry Potter. Young Harry always felt different to his adoptive family. This wasn’t his imagination as we have seen the atrocities he was exposed to. He was kept in a closet, both literally and metaphorically, while his cousin Dudley was treated like a King. Harry thought this was what his life would be, until one day he got the magical letter from Hogwarts inviting him to study there. The Dursleys had tried to keep Harry from learning that he was a wizard, a very powerful wizard, but no matter how much we resist our past or our future, it has a way of catching up with us.
Harry had his struggles with identity and belonging. Even in the wizarding world he was treated differently and not accepted by all. By accepting and embracing his new identity he found a group of friends and allies who were loyal and supportive of him. With support we can do anything. A lot of adolescence is struggling to find our identities and support from our peers, to belong to a group, to disembed from our families and integrate with our peers. Sometimes parents need a little support to help their adolescents complete what McConville (1995) calls the three tasks of adolescence: Disembedding, Interiority and Integration. We see Harry Potter do all three tasks, we witness his choices and his selfless battles against evil and ‘He who cannot be named’. The reality is that most adolescents don’t have magic to help them transition from primary to secondary school, and to the emerging adult stages of college life. Some struggle more than others. What fun it would be if we had magic to help us!
I see lots of adolescents struggling at this time of the year, their parents and their siblings too. Anxiety and school refusal are both symptoms of the inevitable transitions and tasks they are facing. Some expect failure, others expect too much of themselves. Others are happy to just plod along and take each day as it comes. There is no right or wrong way, and it’s natural to worry and be anxious about school and all that goes along with it. But our past doesn’t have to be our destiny, we have choices. The future carries lot of surprises, and with self-acceptance and support we can manage to face any task. Psychotherapy can be a place to explore your anxieties and worries, and to sometimes gain a new perspective about the future. Change happens throughout our lifespan and it’s the one thing we can’t change.
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”
J. K. Rowling
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