A couple of weeks ago I was working with a client who was experiencing an eating setback.
After several weeks of amazing self care, awareness, and intense and courageous personal growth, she had slipped back into her pattern of binge eating, and was in total despair.
Full of self-doubt and self-recrimination, she told me, “Michelle, I’m stuck. I guess I’m never going to get past this.”Ever been there? Yeah, me too. And it feels like crap. You’re doing great and then it’s like this thing just takes you over and you feel hopeless, ashamed and afraid.
I’ve not shared this with many people, but shortly after I launched my business, I had a setback of my own and experienced a binge/purge episode. It scared the crap out of me. Suddenly I felt like a total fraud… I mean, how could I possibly coach people around finding freedom with food when my whole recovery had apparently gone down the toilet?
But then I realized that I had 2 choices:
1.) I could define and label this experience as a “relapse” and make up all kinds of stories about my incapacity to help others because I was back to square one, which would have totally derailed my business.
2.) I could look at this particular incident as just that – one incident – and a valuable learning opportunity.
(I went with #2 🙂 )Here’s the truth about progress: the idea that it is a smooth, ever upward-ascending trajectory is just plain false. We live in a culture that wants fast results with no fallow time. And we all want to “fix” something once and just be done with it, I totally get it. But it just doesn’t work that way.When you examine what the path of change really looks like, it happens in bursts, with a lot of plateaus along the way. Think of it as a spiral staircase, in which we may return to the same challenge point over and over, but we have still ascended upward with more tools, skills and wisdom with which to face that challenge.
Second, getting triggered and experiencing a setback can actually be a sign that you’re on the brink of a new breakthrough, since sometimes we recognize the next big leap on a subconscious level, and then do something to hold ourselves back from having to take it.
But if you hang out in the setback because you make it mean something about not being good enough, or ready enough, or some other constricting perspective, then that breakthrough that is rightfully yours may be a long time coming.
Whether or not you become “Stuck” is a choice. It’s all in how you interpret the setback and the meaning you give to it. If you can embrace the possibility of an empowering meaning to this totally natural experience, and if you’re willing to step into that new perspective and do the work of disentangling from the old beliefs, then the next big leap can happen.
Here are 3 tips to help you do that when you find yourself slipping into old stuff:
Lead with compassion: Always, always, always start here. What would you say to a child or a dear friend who was experiencing a similar setback. Would you tell them they sucked or were a failure? Hell no! You’d approach them with compassion and reassurance and probably remind them of how awesome they are.
Look down the staircase: Look at how far you have come. You may be having this similar experience, but what do you know now that you didn’t used to know? Put your attention on all that you have accomplished and the ways you have grown since you were perhaps 2, 3, 4 floors down, and celebrate every success. What new internal resources can you call on to move through this challenge?
Bonus tip: Write those celebrations and internal resources down on paper! It makes a huge difference getting them into your consciousness. Better yet, keep a daily celebration journal of all the things you are doing well that you can go back and look at when you’re wobbling. Celebration is the currency of success (you can Tweet that!)
Choose an empowering meaning: What new meaning can you give to this setback, particularly with the knowledge that a new breakthrough could be right in front of you? It only means you are stuck or failing if you say so. There’s no need to get caught up in the emotion of it. Sometimes a setback is simply there to show you the contrast between where you are now and where you used to be, and to see that the old way has become intolerable!
If you still find yourself feeling stuck, ask yourself what might be the benefit of staying there? What does it keep you safe from, or what does enable you to avoid? That’s where the money is!
Look, Meesh, we all experience some sticky places along the path of personal growth.
As one of my mentors says, “Personal mastery does not mean that you never get taken out by old stuff, it’s about how quickly you bring yourself back to center.”
When you practice the steps above, you’ll soon find that you are hanging out “back there” for much shorter periods of time and with more and more time in between! And that’s cause for celebration!
“Wisdom is memory without emotion.” – Joe Dispenza
Did this article resonate with you? Leave me a comment and let me know what landed!