Adjusting to a new representation of self

Some aspects of our life, together with personality, make us able to keep a stable identity, knowing who we are in the world. Some of those are mentioned when we introduce ourselves to a new person: ethnicity and origins, profession, sentimental status, family members, where we live etc.

When some of these circumstances change (e.g. moving, losing a job, ending a relationship, losing a family member etc.), we modify how we represent ourselves, integrating the change in the story of our life, thus identifying ourselves even in the new situation.

However, in some cases adjustment might be tough, in particular for a sudden and unexpected life change or if it threatens the fundaments of personal identity. Then people might not be able to imagine themselves in the new circumstances, they don’t see the possibility to keep being who they are, with a fracture in their story. The future triggers a series of negative emotions: fear, anger, despair, resignation and powerless; thus, some people might live in a sort of standby from the present, stuck by the past that will never come back. In clinical terms, this is an “Adjustment Disorder”, that often includes anxious and depressive symptoms.

The stand-by feeling can be very painful and last for a long time; therefore, people should reach for a psychotherapist as soon as possible. The therapy will aim to rediscovering those parts of identity that have kept stable and that will help to find again a continuity and coherence in one’s own life story, also fitting the new circumstances in.

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