Being a Transformer

"For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment."

 Viktor Frankl

"Sweet are the uses of adversity."

 William Shakespeare

Is it possible that our mission on earth is to act as transformers? In electronics, transformers change one form of energy to another. For instance, a transformer may change alternating current coming into your home into the direct current your electronic equipment needs to function. You probably own lots of transformers. They are in your computer and peripherals, phones, clocks, and just about anything else that uses electricity from a plug.

As human transformers, some people specialize in transforming seeds and dirt into plants. We call them farmers or gardeners. Some transform wood into houses or furniture. We call them carpenters. Some transform groups of individuals into functioning organizations. We call them leaders. Parents transform their own cells into babies. Then they transform babies into big people like themselves. In each case, matter is rearranged, and something comes out of the process that may bear little resemblance to the original materials.

We can also be transformers of psychic or spiritual energy. We can take bad vibes and transform them into something more positive. By adolescence most of us have weathered numerous storms of negative emotion. Often these clouds of negativity trail us into adulthood. Bad things happen to us and we feel wounded. Some of the wounds heal, and others leave a psychic scar that never seems to leave us. Each of us probably knows someone who seems stuck in their suffering and can't seem to move ahead. Perhaps each of us has areas in our lives that work less well than others. Our unique personalities inevitably include clusters of characteristics that give us trouble. We have thoughts or emotions, often unconsciously, that bother us, impede us, or make those around us miserable. As long as we keep doing what we've been doing with these troublesome thoughts and emotions they continue to block our development.

Sometimes, though, we find a way to transform the problem into something positive and useful. How many people in helping professions got there because an experience with suffering transformed them? How many recovering substance abusers would never have become the caring and helpful people they are had they not wrestled with their addiction? How many people have come back from serious illness to live new and healthier lives?

In each case something bad happened, and somehow it was transformed into something good. Each individual made a choice not to be victimized by suffering. The negative energy was transformed into positive energy. Sometimes this is described as personal growth.

Many of us struggle with our troubles and the struggle generates negative emotions like anxiety, anger, and hate. Then, when we are exhausted, maybe we find that some good came out of the problem. Sometimes the struggle is necessary and it is the source of our growth. Other times we would have been better served to relax and allow the positive power to emerge from the circumstances using its natural momentum.

The point is that there is plenty of negative energy in this world and we have a couple of choices. We can allow the negative to engulf us, or we can transform the negative energy into positive energy. The following process may help you to more consciously serve as a transformer of negativity.


When experiencing unpleasantness in life, you have choices about how you respond to it. Make it a habit to recognize when you are caught in a storm of negativity. You may notice that the energy of these emotions feels sticky or slimy or prickly. Your unpleasant emotions are your signals that you are caught. When you notice your anger, anxiety, jealousy, envy or other deadly emotion, remind yourself that you have a choice in how you proceed. You can cling to the emotional state, or you can transform it. Emotions are expressions of psychological behavior and behavior can be changed.

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© 2002 Tom Barrett