Ever catch yourself saying, “Argh! Really?! How did I end up back here again? I thought I’d gotten over that!” Just imagine me vigorously nodding my head as I type. I’ve been there so many times, more than I’d care to count. It can be the most frustrating experience. You think you’ve done your personal work, addressed the problem and are ready to face the world! Then, blam! You find yourself back in an old pattern. You may feel defeated, you may feel humbled. You may feel ashamed or hopeless.
But there’s some light in this tunnel—did you know this is NORMAL? You are not incompetent, and you’re not a lost cause. This process is a part of growth, believe it or not.
I recently came across the analogy of a spiral staircase to describe the experience of “here I go again!” and it was one of those ah-ha, lightbulb-turns-on kind of moments. Just because we are facing similar problems, it DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE REGRESSED. We all have our “stuck” points. You know, they’re those tendencies we have, especially the ones that we don’t like about ourselves and that we want to change. They might be having a hard time saying “no,” or catching yourself finishing that extra-large bag of M&Ms after a stressful day. Stuck points can pop up in our relationships—like when we are kicking ourselves for being passive aggressive with our partner again, rather than just saying what we really wanted—or in our hearts and minds, like when we spiral out into a web of anxiety or fall into that black hole of depression.
However, just because we, as human beings and as highly sensitive people, may face the same ol’ challenges, it doesn’t mean we haven’t grown. Each time we search within ourselves for understanding, push ourselves to do the hard things, challenge thoughts and feelings and behaviors that aren’t serving us, we take a step. We move up the staircase. All these efforts create progress and carry us forward.
The thing I hadn’t realized before is—it’s a spiral staircase we’re climbing!
We don’t grow straight up, but we go around and then up, and sometimes we even fall down. And boy-oh-boy, do some of those curves look familiar! But, as we climb, we have new tools and abilities. We may have a different way of stepping, someone to help pull us up or a cane to lean on. We’re not the same person we were when we started climbing. We can do this! And, mostly, with practice, it gets easier, but when it doesn’t, that’s ok too. We’ve been there before, and we know how to climb.