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  • Writer's pictureStephen

A Pattern for Transformation*

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Everyone needs order to survive and thrive in life. But as we grow and mature, we run up against experiences that can cause our order to be shaken and questioned. When that happens, what are the options we have for facing and understanding what’s happening in our lives?

This diagram is a synthesizing together of a number of different ideas and concepts I have encountered and been processing over the past few years. In recent weeks this visual representation emerged in my mind and heart as a way of seeing all of them at work together.

*To listen to a podcast about this Pattern, click here.

Order - Disorder - Reorder

  • These original three pieces (Order-Disorder-Reorder) are a concept I first learned from Fr Richard Rohr. He uses it in multiple places to help provide a framework for understanding change in our lives. He writes most extensively about it in his book, Falling Upward.

  • It is a framework for understanding how we go about growth and transformation. We are people who live in order, are confronted by life that produces disorder in our lives, and we then must learn how to move beyond the disorder to a state of reorder.


  • Order is the way in which we understand and provide meaning for our lives. It is necessary for us to live well and is a result of our families of origin, education, and life-shaping experiences, to name a few sources. Most of the time we talk about this order in the form of beliefs, tenets, perspectives, or perhaps even a world view.

Life Dissonance

  • As we continue on our journeys, life has a way of naturally bringing events and circumstances to us that don’t fit in the order we have created. The two primary experiences that create this dissonance are necessary suffering (a term used by Carl Jung) and extravagant love (love without expectations attached to it).

  • As we encounter suffering and love, the dissonance can come to us cognitively, emotionally, or spiritually, but is often a combination of all three of those realms, which is why I use the term life dissonance.


  • After we have been confronted with dissonance, we come to the point where we must make a decision - What are we going to do with this disorder? This requires us to really look at and examine the source of the dissonance. This is where help from others, as well as a framework like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral can be so helpful (listen to this podcast for an episode on that).

  • As we begin to look at and consider the source of our disorder, our two basic options for choice are to either Reject & Return, or Include & Transcend, recognizing it’s most likely a combination of both of those choices.

Reject & Return

  • This is the process of examining the source of the dissonance in our lives and deciding that it would not be healthy for us to accept it. We decide to return back to the order we had already created, rejecting the notion of the disorder.

Include & Transcend

  • As we wrestle with the source of our dissonance, we realize that something in it resonates with a deeper reality than is already a part of our Order. So rather than reject it, we bring it in and assimilate it into our lives in a healthy way. This process of including and transcending is about us expanding our understandings of life, not necessarily throwing out any of our old order.


  • If we have traveled the pathway of expansion by including and transcending, we then arrive at a place of reorder. This can sometimes be a lengthy time as we process all of the ways in which our old order must be reordered by the dissonance we have experienced.

New Certainty

  • What emerges through this process is a new sense of foundational strength and certitude that allows us to keep moving forward with this new order in our lives.

All of this happens in a cyclical pattern in our lives, best represented by a spiraling and expanding of this process, rather than a simple two dimensional image on a page. Each time we go through this we are expanding to even greater depths of understanding, growth and transformation.

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