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Ugh, life lessons! I think most of us have a love-hate relationships with life lessons. As we move through life, we all have things we need to learn, forgiveness, shame resilience, relationships, jobs, etc. Sometimes the lesson is simple, and sometimes it takes us years to master it. Something we tend to forget about life lessons is that we keep learning more and more until we have them mastered. I call this phenomenon spiraling up. Spiraling up means we might come back to the lesson and it might FEEL like we are re-learning the same lesson but we are experiencing it at a new level with a new insight, a new situation, a new challenge. And then when we have that mastered, we will spiral up to another place.
A client of mine came into see me after her divorce. She was run down and depleted. In her marriage, she had completely lost herself and had no sense of self and now post marriage she wanted to make some changes. We worked together on figuring out what mattered to her, setting boundaries, saying no and developing a strong sense of who she was. She, in essence, started learning the life lesson: To take care of yourself, you need to set firm boundaries. Then she entered a new relationship, and this was a new test. She had figured out how to set boundaries with friends/acquaintances but this was the next level: a significant long-term relationship.
A few months into the relationship she came back to see me. She was very frustrated with herself because she was struggling with telling him no, not losing herself, keeping her own life, setting boundaries, etc. She said, “I thought I had this lesson and now I am re-learning EVERYTHING” and then I reminded her no you are just spiraling up–hitting the lesson at the next level. Now you have all that you learned before, and you are learning how to implement it at THIS level it is a whole new place. You aren’t re-learning you are learning more. With this new perspective she was able to relax a bit and remember that she knew how to set boundaries, she knew who she was, and she wasn’t the same woman who had married her first husband. She just needed to apply that knowledge to this new relationship.
When you think about life lessons as spiraling up, it gives a new perspective. While we do repeat lessons, we don’t unlearn all we have implemented before. We repeat the lesson one step up with a new perspective, new challenges and new information that we didn’t have the last time the lesson came into our lives. So the next time you have a sense of deja vu when it comes to a life lesson remind yourself, you are just spiraling up.