Most of us have probably had at least one period of big change in their life. These periods tend to be challenging and uncomfortable to say the least. Whether it is a realization of a recurring pattern, letting go of a limiting belief, a new understanding – the breakthrough is a hard time. There are life-changing events taking place, accompanied by all sorts of uneasy feelings – doubt, fear, lack of direction and an overall sense of doom. But, ultimately, this is how life works and this is how we learn and level up in the game of being.
The Greeks have a word for this process, which the English language has borrowed, and this word is metanoia.
Metanoia is the way of change of the mind and heart – it is a change in the intellectual, emotional and moral state, in the whole inner nature of a man. It is a spiritual conversion.
Metanoia comes from ancient Greek as change of mind, repentance. In Hellenistic Greek it was also a rhetorical term with the meaning of correction, afterthought.
For the first time it was used in the long gone 1577, as a rhetorical term in the classical Latin text of Rutilius Lupus (1st century AD) summarising the now lost Greek text of Gorgias (1st century BC.) There was an ongoing theological debate whether translating metanoia as repentance, like it was for example in The King James Version of the Bible, is correct and it was finally deemed as mistranslated, for repentance meaning a feeling of regret for things done or not done, while metanoia defined as in fact the change of mental attitudes and conduct.
In 1722, The universal etymological English dictionary of Nathan Bailey defines metonia as: “a change of mind or opinion.”
The term has been used in psychology since late 19th century, when the American philosopher and psychologist William James, often labelled as the “Father of American psychology” used it to refer to a fundamental and stable change in an individual’s life-orientation which is followed by a positive re-building.
Example of a recent usage of metanoia can be seen in Julia Hamilton’s The Idle Hill of Summer from 1988: “How could he explain to her and expect her to believe in his..metanoia, this tremendous change of heart?”