Are you mature enough to create a new self?

Today is August 2 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “are you mature enough to create a new self?” Answers for today’s question will generally fall into one of the following five categories:

  • I do not have to create a new self for I am perfect

  • I have already created a new self and am done with that

  • Creating a new self is too much work so I will stay as is for now

  • I am as mature as possible, so this is an insulting question

  • I am committed to a lifetime of creating myself

Those who navigate the chaos would fall into the last category and subscribe to the observation of French philosopher Henri Bergson who noted "To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly."

Let’s unpack the quote for a better understanding and to ask some additional questions.

First, “to exist is to change.” Navigating the chaos will require you to travel outside of your comfort zone, think differently, and challenge your own assumptions to change. Change is common and synonymous with development or maturity. Do you agree with the statement “to exist is to change?” How often are you committed to change? Are you striving for the status quo so much that you fail to realize the association between change and maturity?

Second, “to change is to mature.” Too often maturity is related to acting one’s age when it should instead emphasize one’s ability to change to exist and continue navigating the chaos. Do you agree with the statement “to change is to mature?” What does maturity mean to you? What does it look like? How often do you reflect upon the relationship between change and maturity?

Lastly, “to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” Our ability to navigate the chaos depends upon our maturity, which, in turn, allows us to create our self throughout our entire lives.

This endless creation of one’s self, however, requires a steadfast belief that we are not here to live up to other people’s expectations. Psychiatrist Fritz Perls was so concerned about this concept that he created the "Gestalt prayer" a 56-word statement that is taken as a classic expression of Gestalt therapy as way of life model of which Dr. Perls was a founder. The key idea of the statement is the focus on living in response to one's own needs, without projecting onto or taking introjects from others. In psychoanalysis, introjection refers to an unconscious process wherein one takes components of another person's identity, such as feelings, experiences and cognitive functioning, and transfers them inside themselves, making such experiences part of their new psychic structure.

The full prayer reads

“I do my thing and you do your thing.

I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,

And you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you, and I am I,

and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.

If not, it can't be helped.”

For those putting in the daily grind of translating their dreams into reality, they understand the importance of being mature enough to ‘do their own thing’ to create one’s self endlessly. Canadian psychoanalyst and organizational consultant Elliott Jaques is one such example.

Jacques coined the term “midlife crisis,” in a 1965 paper. Jaques wrote that during this period, individuals come face-to-face with their limitations, their restricted possibilities, and their mortality.

In his own midlife and beyond Jaques remained opened to the possibilities of what life had to offer and wrote 12 books in the 38 years between the publication of his paper that coined the term “midlife crisis,” and his death in 2003 at age 86. He also married Kathryn Cason and the coupled founded a consulting company devoted to the dissemination of their ideas.

As Carlo Strenger and Arie Ruttenberg reported in a Harvard Business Review post “Elliott Jaques, you might say, lived twice. By the end of his first life, in his mid-forties, he had earned two doctorates, one in medicine and another in psychology. He had gone through psychoanalytic training and had gained a lot of experience as both an organizational consultant and a psychoanalyst. In his second life, Jaques became a truly independent thinker. He greatly expanded the range of organizations with which he worked, and he created the concepts and theories for which he is most famous. He formulated some of his most original ideas in the late 1990s, when he was in his late seventies and early eighties.”

Jacques was mature enough to create a new self throughout his entire life. Do you?

If you are not, what or who is holding you back from creating a new self?