[Obstacles part 3 of 4] In a comment on part 1 of this obstacles series, Donna referred to an awareness of an “often-repeated pattern in my life. Same song, second verse.” I don’t know if this is exactly what she meant, but it reminded me of an often repeated complaint I hear from clients. “This issue/block/problem has resurfaced. I worked very hard on this a while ago and expected to be done with it once and for all. Now I feel like I’m right back where I started.” Having uttered this a time or two myself, I know it can feel very discouraging.
You may be familiar with the spiral image of growth. I feel it is particularly applicable here. Instead of seeing your development in terms of a timeline, where your life progresses in a straight line from point A through Z, think of a coiled spring or tornado. This non-linear image suggests that we go through the full range of a cycle, and when the circle is complete, we go up a level and begin a new cycle.
Sometimes a new cycle contains completely new experiences and challenges, another times we are asked to re-explore a theme. We must work through what it means to forgive, accept or choose to be empowered at THIS level.
A friend of mine once told me he wished he could be like his 3-year-old son, who would just walk up to other children and say, “Hi, my name is Charlie, wanna play with me?” As we all know it will be completely different process in high school. He might have to revisit what it means to be a friend in mid-life, and again in retirement.
So when we ask why something we felt we had dealt with has resurfaced, it’s a little like hearing the clock chime and saying, “Not again! Wasn’t it 3:00 yesterday? I thought we did this already.” Three o’clock today is not the same as three o’clock yesterday. Of course it is possible that you didn’t really work through the issue fully the first time, but usually you know when you’ve made a breakthrough, which is why it’s so confusing for it to come back around.
Another helpful perspective is to consider that if an obstacle or challenge keeps presenting itself in different forms and at many levels, it might just be one of your life’s themes. Maybe this time around you are here to work on being independent or not taking responsibility for others, so it’s just going to show up over and over. This may offer you no comfort, but it can mitigate the surprise and disappointment. More importantly, it allows you to see it as an ongoing process of refinement and not something you expect to “get past.” You can do maintenance work on the issue, even when it’s not right in your face. This can minimize the degree to which it hijacks your life when it flares up.
Let’s say you were confronted with self-esteem issues early in your life and had to work through the way your self-image was disproportionately influenced by how the community and your peer group saw you. Years later, you had to explore dependency on the opinion of a teacher, coach, parent or love interest. Now you start to notice that you aren’t very nice to yourself. That you hold beliefs about yourself that are negative and critical and that your standards and expectations for others are much more generous than for yourself. All of this makes you feel bad about yourself and reminds you in some way of how others used to make you feel.
Instead of going into “oh no, not this again” mode, which will only make you feel worse, you have the chance to recognize that this issue is likely one of the subjects of this lifetime, and your job is to become an expert on it. A true expert never finishes their investigation of the subject. People are usually hoping their life purpose will look like curing cancer, winning a gold medal or bringing peace to the Middle East. More often it is more mundane but no less challenging. Either way, mastery requires practice.
Once you begin to notice that something like self-esteem is one of your major life themes, you can then continue to explore and apply the things you learned through the last crisis. You can develop your ability to become conscious of subtle symptoms instead of waiting for them to grow into a full-blown disaster and starting over. When you identify a theme, it gives you clarity about where your energy needs to be focused.
Many times obstacles, especially recurring ones, can be seen as your spirit’s way of saying to you, “It’s time for you to allow me to be a bigger part of your life. [Which is another way of saying “become more conscious” or “go to the next level.”] But this one thing is in the way. So I’m going to put it right in front of your face so that you can’t avoid it. I know you aren’t going to like this, but trust me. We’re going to be so much better off after you work through it and we can move on.”
Photo by: Ped-X-ing