Ever find yourself in the most perfect or seemingly perfect moment? You probably want things to stay perfect. Well, as a human, you probably have already discovered that very few things are static or unchanging. Our emotions, feelings, and thoughts make up a storm that continues raging until the day we pass.
Most of us, including the most’ successful’, have learned how to adapt to new circumstances. Sure, a perfect moment is warm and comforting. A lot of people want to stay in that moment for as long as possible. I am going to pose the question: is this really for the best? I am not suggesting we discount theories or the benefits of staying in the moment, but is it really in our best interest never to change? Most certainly not.
As a species, on a biological level, we evolve. Our bodies adapt to the necessities of life. If adaptation is not in our biology, then our very DNA as a species transforms our bodies’ physiology to the day’s needs. So, why wouldn’t the same be confirmed on a more micro level? The answer is, it is in our best interest.
A friend of mine once asked to write a piece on transformation for a newspaper. My article’s focus was on my struggle with a significant mental health disorder years ago and how my life transformed throughout my recovery. When conceptualizing this article, I couldn’t help but think of that perfect moment I talked about earlier. I thought about the great times before I was sick and long before mental health as a discourse was on my radar. Then I asked myself: Why do things change?
Thinking back, I was happy before my illness struck. The truth is, I was delighted to be alive. I was also a kid and didn’t know much about the world. But back then, I am still certain there were moments of intense joy. I wasn’t a very good person, though. I was a bully at school and not very helpful around the house. Certainly not a humanitarian or advocate of people with disabilities I am today. I was happy, though, or comfortable given what I knew about feelings and life.
When my illness first struck in 2003 and then again in 2008, I was bitter and angry. I would ask: why did this have to happen to me? Why did things have to change? I was left unsheltered by my illness and certainly out of my comfort zone. The delights and joy of childhood had come to a screeching halt. Like a car engine that wasn’t ready to be junked, slowly, the gears of my life’s transmission began to move and re-align to life. I would soon be ready to take the gear shift and jerk the engine back into drive.
In other words, I persisted against my new barriers set by my illness. To be more specific, I learned how to adapt to my disorder. I relearned how to interact with people again with my newfound disability-related circumstances. Aside from just relearning, I also learned new discourses and ways of relating to the world. Thankfully, I was successful in doing so. As I grew, my interests shifted again. I went through periods of growth and transformation. I became a stronger person.
So, when I look back and place myself in that initial childhood memory, and that joyous moment before 2008, I understand it as not so perfect. More so, under and undeveloped. I had yet to grow beyond my limits and mature. That childhood memory now seems shallow in the wake of so much lived experience.
This is just one example of the psychological benefits of being adaptive and why we transform as people. Imagine all the other reasons there are for transformation. I will never understand people who refuse to accept new ideas and the genesis or cross-pollination of concepts: inventive thinking. Being conservative is excellent, in some senses of the word. Keeping what’s right in our lives and protecting positive aspects of ourselves, our culture, and our world from being polluted or harmed. Another good thing! But when being conservative interferes with listening, taking in new information, and reforming our way of doing things, I genuinely worry about our future.
Above all, I worry about all people that want the status quo to persist forever. These are certainly not the people I want around me. I want transformative and adaptive people in my circles, either social, political, or any group with a vested interest in my wellbeing. Like I said before, the most successful of us understand the importance of change and incorporating movement into the very fabric of their lives. Movement or locomotion is critical to our abilities to adapt and inherent in the same biology. Without a doubt, I am shedding light on our potential’s upper limits to persist into the future and beyond.
So, are you ready for change yet? To transform and grow beyond yourself. Perhaps even take more on? Think of that new job waiting for you that you believed was too much or couldn’t handle. That illness just got the best of you. Well, I am suggesting that the creative and successful mind can achieve and will do so if you remain open to what’s possible by understanding your limits as barriers and those barriers as the next obstacle you must eliminate to find success and happiness.
Max Guttman ’08, MSW ’12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.
Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia.
“I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery,” Guttman says. “After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my ‘break,’ I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others.”
“In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients.”