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Old Friends & The Psychology Behind Change

Throughout your life, you will inevitably experience confrontations within one of your relationships. A lot of these arguments may revolve around the topic of “change.” For instance, maybe you are angry because one of your best friends seems to have “totally changed!” Change is a complicated idea. Some argue that a shift in someone’s personality isn’t exactly what it is perceived to be. Many people believe that change doesn’t exist. People don’t change, they just become who they truly are.  

After four years of psychology, I have learned a lot about dealing with conflicts. In my recent Psychology of Identity course, we learned about Robert Kegan’s theory of the 5 Orders of Consciousness. These orders could either support or deny the statement that “change doesn’t exist”, depending on how you view the idea. His idea says that as we grow older and realize how the world around us works, we climb up to different life stages, or orders of consciousness. When we are young, we tend to see the world revolving around us. As we mature, we are able to see how everything we say and do has an effect on the world that we live in.

Why did I randomly bring up psychology you ask? Well it turns out that not everyone reaches the last order of consciousness, and most people tend to get stuck in the orders below. Specifically, it has been said that most adults never even move on from the 3rd order. Of course, these stages do not represent power in any type of way or determine the outcome of someone’s life – however, these orders are what cause conflicts in our lives.

A simple example would be an argument you may have with your parents. You believe that you should be able to go out whenever you want without notice, but your parents believe that you should let them know where you are going. Both sides argue because they believe they are right. Similarly, it can bet extremely hard for people in different stages to be able to completely understand where the other person is coming from, which just intensifies the argument.

Now let’s talk about arguments with our friends. As we get older, we may be forced to say goodbye to the friends we grew up with because our interests have suddenly changed. Whether you two no longer like the same movies, politics, or recreational activities, changes are bound to happen. Of course, it is still possible to maintain friendships with those you no longer share interests with because you will always share your past. Unfortunately, with these shifts in interests, there are changes in perceptions and sometimes changes in the order of consciousness. With building tension, an argument may follow that not only discusses the issue at hand, but also releases all the tension that may have been accumulating for days or weeks.

It is always important in conflicts that you actively try to understand the other person’s point of view. Although this may be difficult, as you may be in a different orders of consciousness, now you know that these different frames of mind exist. You can be more self-aware and try to understand where the other person is coming from. It is imperative to show respect and understanding for someone you care about. If one party is showing this understanding and the other is not, the argument may just run in a continuous circle. How do you know when enough is enough? Once a relationship no longer adds happiness and substance to your life, that is when it has come to the “enough” mark.

Friends will come and go in your life, and it is up to you to decide which relationships are worth maintaining. The only way to have a successful relationship is to have mutual understanding, respect, love, and dedication. Once one person in the relationship has lost one of those qualities, life becomes more difficult.

On the bright side, it’s technically not our fault if we fail to understand and solve a problem because we are on different levels of our consciousness. People can be at different stages in their lives, and that’s okay. Psychology is on our side!


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