Personal-Change in Adulthood -- Michael Sessions
Incongruence in the literature about personal-change in adulthood prompted the question: How do adults in their 40s and 50s who report significant personal-change in the past 5 to 7 years experience this change? Evaluation of the stories supported two of Wheaton and Gotlib’s (1997) threefold aspects of personal-change. These two aspects are a disruption in the direction of life, and a perceived permanency to that redirection. However, it did not support the third observation that a person makes sense of the change. The data found a disruptive turning point was another element of personal-change. This turning point occurred when an adult recognized that something about who-I-am did not match who-I-thought-I-am; the discovery was surprising, and it was considered to be true. Evaluation of the stories also suggested that patterns, identity, and imagined future possibilities were elements associated with personal-change. Energizing life purpose and self-esteem may also be part of the experience. Identity, imagined future possibilities, and energizing life purpose emerges as expressions of who-I-think-I-am; self-esteem emerges as an expression of feelings for who-I-am; and patterns emerge as expression of the processes of who-I-am. A proposed definition of personal-change that integrates the literature and findings is that personal-change is a subjective experience in which a person discovers and believes he or she is different than a few years ago; this difference includes a permanent change in life’s direction, and a person’s imagined future and identity are impacted by the change. A revised model of the process of personal-change was included in the discussion chapter.