ARE YOU AN ASSIMILATOR OR ACCOMMODATOR OF LIFE?
Life is full of change and transition, and some of those changes are made proactively and some happen to us. Unexpected and traumatic change can lead us in to a new phase of understanding ourselves and the world around us. I’m talking about accidents, incidents, divorce, betrayal, redundancy, abuse, bereavement; the list goes on.
How we cope with those changes is the focus of much work and specifically a new psychological perspective called posttraumatic growth. A great and well known example of posttraumatic growth is Lance Armstrong who answers the question ‘How did cancer change your life?’ with ‘The real question is how did it not change me?…The truth is that cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me…Why would I change, even for one day, the most important and shaping event of my life.’
Lance Armstrong is one of the many examples of someone who has faced adversity, his own mortality and trauma and turned into a positive. He turned it into posttraumatic growth.
According to Jean Piaget, we have two choices in terms of how we process new information that relates to change; assimilation or accommodation. In terms of life trauma; assimilation means that we take this new experience and we try to make it / force it to fit in to the perception of the world we had before the event. We try to keep the same perspective of people, life and purpose that we had before. In effect we are now trying to force the large square peg into the small round hole.
“Life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is frightened at finding himself face to face with this terrible reality, and tries to cover it over with a curtain of fantasy, where everything is clear. It does not worry him that his ‘ideas’ are not true, he uses them as trenches for the defense of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality.”
Our other choice, and the choice of those who experience and achieve posttraumatic growth, is that of accommodation. It is the longer and harder route to take as it involves us taking apart our previous perception of the world, relationships and attachments and form it into a new and more complex picture. In effect we take what was once a large square peg and reforming it into a small round peg so that it fits the newly formed small round hole.
The question is which category do we fall into? Are we assimilators who try to maintain their status quo regardless of what events and experiences life throws at us? Or are we the accommodators? Life’s hard workers who accept not only change but are prepared to change ourselves as the world and our understanding of it around us changes.
Ultimately this is our choice and we can let the world define us or we can accept change and redefine ourselves depending on the hand that life throws at us.
Personally, and in case you haven’t guessed, I very much a fan and participator of brand accommodation, however I have assimilators in my life who I love and respect, whilst acceping our differences.
If you would like to find out more about assimilation and accommodation and which type you are or could be, then get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on twitter @velvetevolution
Inspired by my June book of the month recommendation; ‘What doesn’t kill us – The new psychology of posttraumatic growth.’ by Professor Stephen Joseph.