Crises are an integral part of human life. Doubts, anxiety and even despair seize us mercilessly sometimes. They can be excellent opportunities for personal growth, provided we deal with them effectively.
Personal growth calls for some change. It may be a change of attitudes, environment, job or something else.
Most of us don’t like change. Change frightens us with the uncertainty that inevitably accompanies it. Psychotherapist Sheldon B. Kopp wrote 4 decades ago (in his book, ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!’) that the neurotic who comes to a therapist doesn’t want to change himself. “His goal is to become a more effective neurotic.” He doesn’t want to give up his neurotic feelings and attitudes because he is scared of the changes that would ensue. He would rather have his neuroticism and have the therapist make him feel more comfortable with it.
Change is challenge to face the unknown. The misery of the familiar is preferred to the mystery of the unknown. Life is hard here, but at least I know the terrain and its pitfalls – that’s the thinking. Will I ever get to know the new terrain equally well?
I was faced with that situation in 2001. And I gathered enough courage to call it quits. It took me a while to get used to my new environment which was almost entirely different from the previous one. Then I got used to it. “Man is a vile creature; he gets used to anything,” says Dostoevsky’s protagonist in Crime and Punishment.
But we don’t have to get used to anything. We are free to call it quits at any time, provided such an action is necessary, and move to yet another unknown reality. It is not desirable to prefer the misery of the familiar to the challenge of the unknown, if the familiar is bogging you down.
Blind alleys appear at certain phases of life’s journey. We should keep searching for the exit, for the light that shimmers somewhere in the darkness. But if there’s no light in sight, if there’s no reason to look for it any more, what shall we do? When everything seems lost, if we care to listen, we can hear the gentle creak of the door of hope opening somewhere. I do hear it.