One of my favorite articles that I read during my doctoral studies was Zingsheim’s (2011) article about mutational identity theory. In a nutshell, the article talks about how people grow and change, using a four-part model consisting of evolution, multiplicity, embodiment, and agency.
What does that mean?
Without claiming to summarize this very thoughtful piece, a job that would require more time (and space), I will share what I took away from the article, and continue to use years later. Here I go!
As human beings, we are capable of changing, of embracing growth even when it is painful,of becoming who we are meant to be.
I love that the last part of the model is agency, the ability to DO things in a larger context.
There are two images from the article that still stick with me, even now.
The first is the image of soon to be a comic book superhero changing into the bigger, better, version of himself/herself– something that is never portrayed as an easy transition. The hero has to suffer a bit to be great. (As a doctoral student who was working very hard and struggling with pretty transformational personal growth, that notion gave me A LOT of comfort.) The second is perhaps my own visual interpretation of Zingsheim’s discussion of “hailing,” when others recognize the transition and greet or acknowledge us as what we have become— not who we used to be.
There is a lovely sense of relief when that happens.
It's something I have seen and felt in myself and in witnessing the journeys of friends whose transformations have been much more dramatic than my own.
…being called “Doctor” for the first time… changing one’s name after marriage (or divorce)… the first salute received as a military officer…
There are so many of these transitional moments in life, where we step into our highest selves and are finally recognized by others as the people we have become. These are the moments where we let go of the struggle and step into the light. They are precious because they mark turning points for us as individuals.
Who says mutants aren't cool?
I for one, proudly embrace the label! I am glad to have changed from who I used to be. That lady was okay, but I like the older, wiser me much better.
Are you a mutant too? If so, smile and honor your own courage and your journey.
It's not easy, but it sure is worthwhile.
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Zingsheim, J. (2011). Developing Mutational Identity Theory: Evolution, Multiplicity, Embodiment, and Agency. Cultural Studies ‚Üî Critical Methodologies, 11(1), 24-37. doi:10.1177/1532708610386546