Life experiences that act as catalysts for vertical growth and development

Copyright © Peter Bluckert 2019. All right reserved.

Life experiences act as the primary way that vertical development happens for many people. These may be planned and sought-after such as parenthood; others, unplanned and unwelcome such as loss.

As you review the list below, you will probably recognise how a number of these life events have impacted and changed you.

Some will have acted as a rite de passage from one stage of life to another and altered your sense of who you are – your identity. Welcome or unwelcome, these have acted as catalysts for stepping up, growing up, and taking more responsibility. They’ve nudged us another step in the direction of maturity.

Whilst the list contains some very positive and joyful experiences, several involve crisis and adversity – life’s other crucibles for vertical growth and development. Both types of life experience force us to re-assess what’s important and make new decisions about how to live our lives.

So, what are some of the more common life experiences that are known to be catalysts for vertical development?
  • Major life events such as marriage and civil partnership.
  • Becoming a parent can be a transformational experience for some people.
  • Leaving where you’ve come from, your roots – this can be a locality but also your ethnic, religious or class background.
  • Living for a period of time outside your own culture or sub-culture where norms, assumptions and expectations, are significantly different.
  • Travelling widely and experiencing very different ways of living and thinking.
  • Loss, or impending loss, especially where its complex/complicated loss can result in a deep re-evaluation of purpose and priorities.
  • Relationship break-ups and separations.
  • Near-death experiences.
  • Being faced with serious illness and/or disability.
  • An environment or set of supportive relationships that support inner change and opportunities for trying-out new behaviours and ways of living.
  • Stronger engagement, identification and emotional attachment to a cultural identity group.

Stand out transformative experiences

It’s invariably the case when people are asked to identify the life experiences that have produced a vertical development shift in them, they speak of marriage, civil partnership and having children. These stand out as transformative experiences.

The issue of leaving home, where you originally come from, your locality, family, ethnic group, religious affiliation or class background can also be a huge catalyst for change.

A life of service, based on love, duty and responsibility

For some people, the ‘hero’s/heroine’s journey,’ as it’s referred to in mythology, often begins with a need to escape poverty, social division and deprivation, search for a better life and bring back much needed help to the family and community. So many people around the world are living this life. It’s a life of service, based on love, duty and responsibility.

Re-assess and think differently

Those, from more fortunate economic circumstances, who have travelled extensively, have lived, or are currently living, outside their primary culture usually connect with the learning they’ve gained from those experiences.

They force you to re-assess and think differently.

A core human issue

In vertical development and personal growth workshops, when conditions of high trust and non-judgment are established, issues of loss surface with unerring regularity and this shouldn’t surprise us. After all, this is a core human issue and for most people, there’s never been enough support in their everyday lives to deal with it.

The quality and supply of skilled help rarely matches up to the quantity of suffering and pain.

Stepping into vulnerability

And yet, from time to time people do find themselves in precisely what they most need – an environment or set of relationships, maybe just one relationship, where the help they long for, is actually there waiting for them. The opportunity presents itself to risk stepping into vulnerability and be helped. I’ll identify some of those environments in a later article, and explore what makes them so special.

Sources of deep support

A stronger engagement with a cultural identity group, perhaps after many years of conscious disengagement, can also prove to be a life-transforming step.

Accessing and becoming closer to a community of people with shared experience and understandings can provide unique and precious sources of deep support.

Historically, through the liberation and consciousness-raising movements, and currently through today’s equivalents, many people’s primary route into deeper personal growth work has come through this channel.

Life experiences can also hinder growth

We should also recognise that development can be hindered as well as generated by negative life experiences.

Severe events and conditions can lead people to withdraw, become depressed, anxious and closed down. People get stuck, captured, and defined by extreme life experiences, and without skilled help, their lives can be diminished. So, it’s very important to remember that…

The experience of hardship and adversity doesn’t necessarily lead to development. On the contrary, it can arrest it.

Courage & Spark



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