Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly, uses the term to describe those of us who are searching the regions of inner space, and sees the challenges as vast as those of the astronauts who explore outer space. He also uses the phrase "shifting tectonic plates of our culture" to describe some of the massive changes that are occurring around us.
These terms could just as easily be used in describing relationships and family life. The crises that seem to come up sometimes seem as unsettling as the earthquakes that cause so much destruction and the need to rebuild afterwards. Sometimes in our own lives we see only the surface chaos, without truly understanding that it is a reflection of shifts that are happening at a much deeper level. Sometimes these shifts are necessary, and functional, and it does no more good to be angry with the one who is shifting than it does to get mad at the earth for causing the earthquake.
What are some of these deep level shifts? Well, some start early, when the toddler discovers the power residing in the little word "no," we know that something has changed. This is more than simply being oppositional. The child is experiencing his or her separateness from the parents, and in a sense is discovering a mind of his/her own.
The turbulence of adolescence is certainly an indication of major shifts occurring beneath the surface. The adolescent wanders through that no-man's land between childhood and adulthood, is in the midst of an evolutionary process from which an adult identity will begin to emerge, is struggling with the meanings of masculinity and femininity, freedom and responsibility and is also being asked to make decisions about future vocation.
We must not define the resulting tremors as the problem, and simply try to eliminate them.
Another type of shift may occur when the mother, having given birth to a few little ones, and after several years of diapers, cleaning, up at night, and more cleaning, begins to become disenchanted with her role. While she is home by choice, and would not change this, nonetheless her energy has been drained, and she needs more support now from the husband. He, meanwhile, has become nicely settled in the routine of going to the office, knowing that she is taking care of everything at home, and looks forward to evenings and weekends so that he can relax. She now realizes that she is on duty 16 hours per day, seven days a week, with no time to relax. (In fact, she can't remember what that is!)
Suddenly there is rumbling, and while it might look like she is reneging on the deal, or that he is taking advantage of her, in actual fact it is time for a shift, and working that out can actually strengthen the marriage.
So, when trouble starts, if we can stay away from blame and judgment, and focus instead on finding out what it is that needs to shift, and then if we can facilitate the shift, we can come through it with a lot less destruction in our relationships and our families.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or CDs, visit www.gwen.ca