I noted previously in my series of publications introducing the principles of psychoadaptation the rather perpetual fluctuation between equilibrium and disequilibrium, and how every time we think we’ve achieved peace, it evaporates as quickly as a bottle of soda left open. Indeed, it is said frequently by people all over the world that there is nothing constant but change. This applies well to the psyche. As soon as we have adapted our conceptions to the constraints of our environment, soon new demands appear and our equilibrium ends. We feel the pressure to adapt again. For some of us, this is sheer pleasure. I love adaptation. I enjoy challenge and really enjoy conquering challenge. To do so, one must place one self in difficult and unfamiliar contexts; the contexts requiring adaptation. I drop myself into these contexts, as if falling into a box with slippery walls in which escape is not possible. However, given time, my mind and self work together to turn those slippery walls into steps, and I climb casually out as if I had been there and done that so many times before.
Although the cycle of equilibrium and disequilibrium repeats itself over and again, by continuing to seek challenge, we eventually come to see the commonalities among different contexts. With time these commonalities become so evident that situations start blending. It’s like creating a smoothie. Although the strawberries are red and the blueberries blue, when blended together one no longer distinguishes the two but tastes a wonderful concoction with the right blend of sweet and sour.
Psychoadaptation is like blending different fruit and preparing a tasty smoothie. Instead of fruit we deal with situations. Instead of a smoothie, we drink life. Thus, the fourth principle of psychoadaptation is that as adaptation increases, the need to adapt decreases.
Imagine that you have lived a full life. As a young person, each day you sought to try something new, challenging your fears. Say you suffer from social anxiety and dealing with people face-to-face is uncomfortable. For one not living psychoadaptation, one would maintain equilibrium by eschewing challenge. This would mean staying within safe zones, zones in which one wouldn’t face others. However, inside that self could reside an outstanding orator for instance. Public speaking and social anxiety don’t mix well, one would think, and if one prescribes to a need to maintain equilibrium, that person is right. Yet, if one negates such nonsense, one would seek to challenge the self by forcing the self into discomfort and disequilibrium. This would entail, for instance, taking a course in which one must present work, volunteering for jobs that require greater face-to-face contact. This would be extremely uncomfortable. I can imagine the heart racing faster than Danica Patrick at the Indianapolis 500, and the intestines tightening up. Lips and facial muscles would twitch and the person may even feel faint. HOWEVER, once the individual adapts to the situation once, the self would find adapting to a similar situation a second time more simple. Then the third and the fourth times would be even simpler, and so on and on.
Each time we master one context we experience perfect equilibrium and that context is stored in our mental schema (framework for understanding) so that the next time we encounter that situation or a like situation, we will feel confident in our ability to adapt. Contexts are never the same, yet they are quite similar. For instance, as a professor/instructor, I have taught many hundreds of lectures. Although no two lecture is the same, even if covering the exact same content, and students differ, each time I taught a lecture I became more and more familiar with that context. I eventually reached the point where little that students asked or did phases me. I didn’t adapt to all of those contexts, but I had adapted to teaching and teaching underlies every lecture I ever deliver. Although I still have to adapt to each individual situation, adaptation becomes easier each time I adapt. As such, teaching, which once was a very frightening situation for me became simple and rather comfortable.
To attain happiness one must attain peace. To paraphrase Piaget, desire is disequilibrium. When we stop desiring, we no longer experience disequilibrium and we live in a perpetual state of peace. Although we may not experience the oceanic feeling each moment of each minute of each day, we feel quite satisfied with whom we are and what we have done. By coming to see life’s commonalities, we realize that there isn’t much left to desire, and that’s quite fine. We come to be content and we stop chasing false hope. It’s only then that we experience peace. There’s a saying that it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. That saying encapsulates psychoadaptation perfectly. One lives and experiences, and even though not every experience ends happily, one is better for having had the experiences, and comes to realize quite happily that to have lived is enough.
I still have goals in life. I pursue them vigorously. Yet I am content. In discussing Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development, I often tear up when delivering stage 8. According to Erikson, in that last stage when we are nearing the end of our physical presence on earth, we are confronted with a major question; did we live the best life we could have lived, and are we content? I have said that we don’t have to be old and grey to answer that question. Nor do we have to have achieved much. Indeed, if the grim reaper came to my doorstep right now, I should be able to answer that question with a resounding yes. Yes, I did live my life the best I could, for I sought to challenge myself always and to always better myself and how I relate to others. Although I haven’t accomplished every goal I desire, I am working on them and being on the road toward accomplishment in my book is the same as having accomplished the ends. I never stop. Then, I compose myself in front of my students and say. I hope you can say to yourselves right now, if your time to pass is here, that you have lived the best life you could have lived and that you are truly content. I feel sorry for those who cannot.
Living a life of adaptation, psychological adaptation that is, will ensure that in the end you pass without regrets. You will come to love challenge and embrace discomfort, as discomfort becomes comfort. Your world will turn upside down but in a good way. Imagine, attaining peace and doing so by living a full life instead of hiding in some temple and meditating normality away. This is psychoadaptation.