Personal Growth is not Linear, its a spiral

Our growth, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and in every other way, doesn’t always move in a straight line. Learning this fact was an ah-ha moment for me. I felt like, once I dealt with something and determined to release it, I was done. I thought that the reason things kept coming back up was because I wasn’t doing something right, or because I wasn’t “spiritual enough”. In reality, I was making progress with things, I just didn’t know at the time that growth is not linear. (This goes for the healing process and really life in general as well.)

What does “growth is not linear” mean exactly?

Instead of being a straight line, where we deal with an issue, let it go, move on to the next step, and never have to deal with that issue again, our growth and healing is more like a spiral staircase that we climb one step at a time. Because of this, sometimes we feel like we’ve dealt with an issue, or we’ve learned our lesson, only to have it come back around in a different way.

An example of this would be something like, learning to be your authentic self. The first time this comes up your lesson may just be learning to hear your own voice. The next time, while still learning to be your authentic self, the lesson may consist of learning to make others hear that voice by setting boundaries and speaking your mind. Next would come learning to use that voice to help others, which may entail learning to be ok with people rejecting your opinions, your voice. All of these lessons may come up in a similar way, perhaps with the Universe placing you around overbearing, annoying people, but the lesson to be learned is slightly different each time.  

The important thing to note here is that, even though we feel like we’re dealing with the exact same issue, unless we didn’t learn the lesson the first time, what we’re dealing with each time it comes up, IS something just a little different. A little different, or a little deeper. I say this because thinking that it’s the exact same issue over and over again is what gives us that feeling that we’re going backwards, or going in circles.

But really, you aren’t going backwards, you’re just dealing with an issue within an issue and you have to stand in one place a little longer.

Like learning to be your authentic self above – if you were on step two: learning to make others hear your voice by setting boundaries and speaking up for yourself – you might stay on that step a little longer because you also end up dealing with things like: how to handle people not respecting your boundaries; what to do when people would rather move out of your life than respect your boundaries, etc.

Rest assured though, if you are making an effort, then you are making progress. Even the very act of choosing to learn, grow, and heal, is progress.

Another way of looking at growth and healing, is peeling layers off.

Each time we do something that helps us to grow and heal, we peel a layer back that reveals another lesson to be learned. As we peel those layers back, sometimes a deeper wound is revealed that we weren’t even aware of. This is why doing the inner work necessary to grow and heal isn’t always easy.

Peeling off those first layers, or taking those first steps on the staircase, sometimes doesn’t feel like a big deal. We take our first baby step on the path and we think, “wow, ok, I’ve dealt with that and I can move on”. But then, the Universe asks you to go a little deeper and peel off another layer, climb a few more steps. “Ok, that’s was a little harder, but I’m still ok, and now I’ve dealt with this issue”. Then, something else comes up…..a few more steps, another layer, and so on, and so on. Each time we move forward, just a little more is asked of us.

For some, it’s just the opposite, peeling off that first layer feels like peeling off an entire section of skin so they avoid it at all cost. They do anything they can to keep that layer covered. But, when that layer finally does begin to come off, it becomes easier and easier for them.

This is especially true for people who tend to overthink things. They worry so much about how they are going to get through something, that they build it up in their head to the point that they are too terrified to make a move. So, they don’t. Being in pain, and knowing what to expect, is easier (from their point of view) than the uncertainty of how it will feel to peel off that first layer. These feelings are what keep people in jobs that they hate for years and years, or relationships that they hate. They are what keep people from speaking up and doing what is best for them; because they are more worried about how others will react and how their lives will change than they are their own happiness and well-being.

The thing to remember though, if we don’t learn the lesson, it’s repeated until we do learn it.

If you’re in a job you hate, a relationship that you’re miserable in, or not speaking your truth in life, then the Universe is going to continue to hand you opportunities to change this. We have to move through it to move past it. We can’t just ignore it, or pretend it never happened, and not have it come back up again at some point. Even if we leave a relationship that we aren’t happy in, and pretend like it never happened, the lessons that the relationship was trying to teach us will come up in other relationships or other areas of our lives. (To clarify: This is not to say, stay in a bad relationship until you learn your lesson, but rather, be aware of the lesson that needs to be learned, learn it in each relationship you have, and move on from anything that doesn’t bring you joy.)

Just like anything else in life, healing and growing as a person takes effort and some practice. There will be some lessons that we go through once, get it the first time, and move on. But more often, these lessons won’t be easy for us.

Things like – how to show kindness to everyone, even those we don’t like; how to feel good in our own skin; how to live authentically and not let others tell us how to live our lives; rejection; and all of our fears about what people think, etc. – you know, the fun stuff that everyone wants to go through. =)

This is why, as an example, those people that just drive you nuts keep popping up in your life; or why you continue to attract partners who are controlling or needy. If you pay close attention, all of the people that you have an issue with will have something in common. It may not be obvious at first, but look closely. Whatever they all have in common, or the way you commonly feel around all of them, is a lesson that the Universe is trying to teach you. There is a trait about these people that you need to be aware of in yourself, or something that you feel like you’re lacking within yourself.

For a time in my own life, I kept coming into contact with people that were clingy, and completely drained my energy every time I was around them. This went on for a couple of years before I finally saw that I was allowing these people to drain my energy because I wasn’t setting sufficient boundaries in my life. I let them dictate what we did and when we did it, without regard for my own schedule. Because I wanted to be a caring, considerate person, I let them dump all of their problems onto me, and I tried my best to fix everything I could for them. This generally meant that I ended up doing things for them so they didn’t have to, or I tried to take on their emotions so that they didn’t have to deal with them.

When I finally saw this, I started making more efforts to protect my time and energy, and these people moved on.

From time to time, I will come into contact with someone like this now. When I do, it’s always a reminder for me to make sure that I am setting good boundaries, and taking the time to fulfill my needs as well as others.

My lesson was repeated over and over again, through different people and circumstances, until I finally learned. Now the lesson has become more of a refresher course for setting boundaries with people.

Don’t let the fact that growth is not linear discourage you.

It’s not that we’re constantly circling back around to things over and over again. Remember, it’s a spiral, not a circle. Each time you go through something, learn, and grow, you move up, along the spiral a little more.

If you find that you’re going in a circle, then there’s a lesson somewhere that you’re not getting, or refusing to see.

The best way to figure out what this may be is to spend some time going inward. Meditate or take a walk without headphones and just listen to your thoughts. Take five or ten minutes and do some automatic writing. (Sit and write everything that pops in your head for at least 5 minutes. This gets your thoughts out of your head and helps to get your ego out of the way so your intuition can be heard.)

Doing these things can also help you to sort through those emotions and feelings that arise as your going through times of growth and healing. It’s the best way to process what is happening, release any negative feelings that we have surrounding the situation, and hold onto the lessons that we’ve learned.

Always remember, the Universe seeks to help you and not harm you, it’s for you and not against you.

It’s not always an easy thing to learn, especially when life seems to be piling bad, crazy, unhappy things on top of us, but the world is not out to get you, it’s out to help you learn and grow as a person. If we can always try to look at it from the perspective of, “what can I learn from this situation or person”, rather than saying “why is this happening to me”, it makes things a little easier.

This will keep you from staying in a circle, and instead, help you move up the spiral a little more. Each step up the spiral puts us into closer alignment with our authentic selves. It allows us to live our life’s purpose more freely and to be happier in the process. It’s not always easy, but taking it one step, we can do it.