Making sense of sudden personal transformation: a qualitative study on people’s beliefs about the facilitative factors and mechanisms of their abrupt and profound inner change.




Ilivitsky, Susan

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Sudden personal transformation (SPT) was defined as a subjectively reported, positive, profound, and lasting personal change that follows a relatively brief and memorable inner experience. Although such change has been described in numerous biographies, works of fiction, and religious and scholarly texts, a consistent definition and systematic program of research is lacking in the psychological literature. Moreover, almost nothing is known about what causes such change from the subjective point of view of individuals who have experienced it first hand. This study used semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis to explore the common beliefs of three participants about the factors that facilitated and the mechanisms that caused their SPT. Findings reveal that all participants reported a life transition, feeling miserable, feeling exhausted, feeling unable to resolve adverse circumstances, reaching a breaking point, and support from others facilitated their individual SPT’s. All participants also indicated that a formalized activity or ceremony as well as a process outside of their conscious control (either a higher power or a deep inner wisdom) produced or caused their SPT’s. Implications for future research and counselling practice are discussed.



Epiphany, Quantum Change, Peak Experience, Transformative Change, Extra-therapeutic, Insight, Positive Change, Transformative Experience, Mechanisms of Change, Rock Bottom, Conversion, Breaking Point, William James, Mystical Experience, Turning Point, Discontinuous Change, Rebirth, Born Again, Spiritual Awakening, Post-traumatic Growth, Unencumbered Moment, Spiritual Emergencies, Transforming Moment, Convictional Experience, Instantaneous Conversion, Enlightenment, Alcoholics Anonymous, Spontaneous Recovery, Facilitative Factors, Predisposing Factors, Antecedents, Conversion Experience, Crystallization of Discontent, Sudden Gains, Chaos Theory, Second-order Change, Type 2 Change, Non-treatment-related, Nonlinear Change