My older brother Omer asked me today, ‘why can we not adjust?’ He considers adjustment as an acceptance of whatever life pushes towards us, if I understand correctly. If life throws lemons, he believes we should make lemonade. I don’t necessarily completely agree with this concept. Yes, life is work and lots and lots of work; be it relationships, profession, friendships and the list go on. We are meant to make the most of what life throws our way and accept it with grace. We are all going to inevitably entertain ‘pain’ that comes knocking at our door like an uninvited guest and whether we like it or not, we have to open the door because the knocking won’t stop. If we resist pain, it turns into suffering that we have to endure and experience whether we like it or not.

Adjustment is a behavioural process in psychology by which humans maintain an equilibrium between their various needs or between their needs and the obstacles of the environment. Social and cultural adjustments are the same as physiological adjustments. We learn how to cope first and that then translates into adjustment and becomes part of the character structure. We often say we are learning to cope and it’s considered a heroic thing to do; a sign of strength but many of these adjustment choices lead to an unhealthy and dysfunctional life where one is working against what the real self aspires for.

Is that really the essence of life where we are constantly adjusting between what we want and need and what the environment has to offer? In the process where needs are unmet by the environment, we feel frustrated, angry, hopeless, anxious and so on and eventually we learn to adjust. But I find this adjustment rooted in helplessness and passivity where it seems like we let the environment make all the choices for us. It’s like we cannot change the cards we are dealt but only have the choice of how we play the hand. I think there is a choice of leaving the game and not playing altogether too in some areas of life.

This ‘adjustment’ is a lifelong process beginning from birth where we are not really given the choice of being born, are we? A baby then has to adjust to the shocking transition from her mother’s protective womb to the world outside. It carries on into fine-tuning to the needs of the parents and siblings that are again predestined for us and carry a profound impact on so many of our life choices until adulthood. The adjustment continues until as an adult is fooled into thinking he is now independent and can do whatever he chooses to. But in this interconnected world, we all influence each other’s life choices in all possible ways and we continue to grow and progress by adjusting and aspiring and fighting for what feels true to us.

Where does it stop? Is there no area in life where we can stop adjusting and make an independent choice? For example, marriage is one area where adjustment is most demanded. Why? Why do we have to adjust to a relationship that takes us beyond our window of tolerance? A marriage is an adult choice made by us or made for us but why do we sign up for chronically adjusting and compromising to unhappiness? Yes, it’s not a simple question and there is no simple answer to it but maybe today is the day to ask this question if one is unhappy and struggling.

There is a very thin line between adjustment and compromise. We do adjust our needs to the environment but where does one draw a line and stand one’s ground? Via adjustment an individual learns habits and coping skills to whatever the environment sends our way. My fear is that encouraging to adjust all the time, we do not expect and demand from our own selves and the environment and learn to accept the status quo. We might just learn to settle and not aspire for reaching our own potential and aspire for a life that makes us feel alive. Adjustment appears to be a destination whereas life is all about constantly being on the road and growth happens through going towards unknown places within and outside of us. So how about, today, we protest and stamp and say out loud that we want more, and we will not adjust?