The further you go on the personal development path, the more you come to recognise and trust the pattern of process. The pattern of how change happens, integration, and adjusting to your new normal.
Right now I’m coming out of a particularly important process, one that had me in the darkness of chaos (am I being over dramatic? Maybe, maybe not) for a while when it started, but one that has definitely followed a caterpillar-like metamorphosis into a butterfly, complete with waiting for my wings to dry and the muscles to warm up before I take flight. Writing this is part of the adjusting-to-a-new-normal phase, I’m sure.
What happens in process is that you integrate a new learning in such a way in your being, that who and how you are in the world changes. In some ways, you become someone new. In other ways, you become who you’ve always been, only not under the muckheap that somehow landed on top of you.
That muckheap is habits of thinking and viewing yourself that are, quite simply, incorrect. Habits of fitting yourself into boxes and containers that are too small. Habits of seeing yourself as someone you’re not.
Put another way, we’re all lanterns. Over time, dirt lands on the lantern. It becomes dingy and doesn’t shine so brightly. You might think you need to change the bulb. But what you actually need to do is clean off the dirt that’s landed on it. The bulb has been, and still is, shining brightly.
In fact, once you come out the other end of process, it’s easy to start thinking about how your bulb has always been bright and shiny, and to underestimate the sheer effort, determination and broad-ranging muck removal methods that you needed to use to get it back to being bright and shiny. Like spending hours learning a new skill, then immediately wondering why you ever thought it was difficult in the first place.
You also get to recognise some of the phases. A classic phase for me has been the ”what the hell am I doing here?” phase that I typically get around day 10 of a 14 day retreat. Retreats, by the way, are awesome. The first couple of times, I seriously thought about leaving, about quitting the process. By the third of fourth time, I saw it for what it was: the last ditch attempt to stop myself from taking a bold step forward and making the change. Later on, I started to get excited: “ooh, it’s the ”what the hell am I doing here?” phase – things are about to take off!”
This phase is very similar in tone to the feeling I get during a difficult discussion, the feeling that says, “Leave the room, now!” This feeling is almost always the precursor to saying or hearing something important, even game-changing. When I stay in the room, these moments lead to deeper connection, going into deeper into the territory and meeting something of value in myself and, most often, in the other person – usually my husband – too.
It take courage to stay in the room. But the more times you do it, the easier it becomes, the more trust you have in your internal signals and in your process.
Sometimes, in your process, you need silence. You need to not handle things consciously for a while, but rather to let them settle and work themselves through underneath. You need to listen to what’s there, not to what you think is there. You trust that it’ll come through in its own time, or with a bit of digging.
During the current process, I’ve written my journal pretty much every morning. I’ve written my thoughts, I’ve contacted and expressed my feelings. I’ve posed questions and reflected on how to answer them – or whether or not they’re valid or useful questions to be asking anyway. Gentle (or intense) digging around in the dirt to figure out how to chip, scrape, wipe or dissolve it off. Trusting that there will be a method out there, and/or in you, that can handle this.
I’ve also had assistance – friends, my husband, seeing a counsellor, counselling supervisor, and working through my counselling and coaching course too.
As you go through a process, you often find that you need a new environment to try things out in. Somewhere that you can be the ”new” you, instead of being expected to be the ”old” you. You may be blessed with friends who are growth-oriented, or at the least growth-accepting. Friends who encourage you on your path. If not, you may need to find new circles to play in, to experiment with new ways of being. I’m a big fan of retreats and personal development workshops for this, somewhere that you can trust people to let you play.
Process is a normal human thing. You’re not alone in this. Everyone has experiences, and we all have our own ways of processing those experiences. But what I’m talking about here are the deeper processes of resolution. Resolution, as I’m talking about it here, is bringing things to a state in which they are now settled, there is no more to be done. It feels like freedom, being no longer bound by these previously unresolved issues, episodes and experiences.
Unresolved things land like dirt on our lanterns. They obscure the brightness within. Other people see the effect of the dirt on the brightness of your lamp, but not necessarily what it is. If you’re lucky, you have pretty good automatic lantern washing going on. If you’re unlucky and you didn’t get taught or shown that particular sub-routine as a kid, or indeed you got extra dirt on your lantern instead, then you’ll have a pretty grubby lantern.
Countering that: each human has an inner urge to develop and grow. How much you feel that urge depends on how much shit is on your lantern. But once you catch a glimpse of the light inside, and when you see that the brightness could be so so much more, you can really get into letting your light shine out. Or you can ignore it for a while longer, take your pick.
Trust your process. Know that you’re a lantern with dirt on. Have confidence that there’s a brightness inside that you can let shine. Trust yourself that you’ll find the tools and people to remove the dirt. Cleaning your lantern and take satisfaction in your progress. Have a quiet confidence in resting when you need to. Then get used to your shiny new brightness afterwards, and enjoy it.