Updated: Apr 16
I don't know about you, but I catch myself thinking that a person's evolution (namely mine) should be linear. In this expected cycle, life is like a 1980's video game. A pixelated version of me bops along, bouncing from mushrooms or crocodile heads, or konging donkeys, or some such thing. There are kooky sound effects. The decidedly simple and electronically stilted theme song is a bit of an ear worm. As this version of me runs with perpetually bent elbows and knees, Wee Deb collects life lessons, perhaps in the form of gold coins or ingested ghosts. Soon the end of the level nears, and we know the Big Boss is coming.
In this life, the linear life, things are predictable. Run through life. Collect shit (aka lessons). Collect enough to shit to level up. Face Big Boss. Win? You level up. Lose? You try again, until you win and level up. The next level is much like this one, but it's not the same. Maybe Wee Deb now has to jump higher to snag her coins, or perhaps it now takes a running start to clear the crocodile pit. There may be new enemies that require new strategies to avoid or eliminate. When you collect enough shit (somewhat harder to achieve, since you've leveled up), you once again face a Big Boss. But it's not the same Big Boss. It's a new Big Boss. Because you already beat the old Boss. That's in the past. You don't have to fight the same Boss over and over. Right?
That's what I catch myself thinking. But I'm wrong. If you've been thinking the same thing, you've probably noticed life doesn't align well with this expectation. You, too, are wrong. Because personal evolution isn't linear. Healing, growth, awareness, acceptance, expansion--these all share a natural shape, and it's not a straight line. It's a spiral.
I first encountered the concept of healing as a spiral at the inaugural FEnomenon retreat. Kayla Lappin was speaking about shadow, fear, and the lessons we can find in our own darkness when she said it. You know those moments when someone says something and your world view shifts on the spot, like someone just gave your kaleidoscope a firm turn when you were least expecting it? This was one of those moments for me. Up until that afternoon, I'd always felt stymied when it was time to level up and I found myself facing the same Boss. This again? I thought I had healed/integrated/forgiven/understood/accepted/dealt with/gotten over this. This was at the end of my last level. Why am I playing it again?
It was like some sort of spiritual deja vu, and I wasn't having it. Or, I wished I wasn't having it. Because I'd always had it, yet I still clung to the idea that I oughtn't. I was still confused, holding onto the mistaken conclusion that evolution is shaped like a line. You start here, you go directly through some shit (aka lessons), and then you're there. Ad infinitum. This would be lovely, clean and simple. But my life's experience didn't support this linear worldview. My clients' life experiences didn't support it, either. What Lappin said made sense. Healing, expansion, evolution travels a path, but that path is decidedly non-linear.
Personal Development Pitfall doesn't play quite like I always thought it should. I got some bits right. Wee Deb (or Wee You) does indeed bop around, going over, under, and through obstacles and around minor enemies in search of shit (aka lessons). There are definitely levels, with a massive, focused challenge at the transition point. When you master the challenge, you level up. If you fail to master the challenge, it will be offered to you again and again until you do. Leveling up is always available, so long as you're willing do to the work to beat the Boss.
But the levels don't get progressively harder. Sure, some things are more challenging on higher levels. I had to work a lot harder to learn to listen without a focus on my response than I did to tie my shoes. Learning to hold space for people who are hurting was harder to master than learning to hold a spoon. But lots of things get easier the longer you play. In those higher levels, it doesn't always require more effort to collect your shit (aka lessons). After all, with each level you become better at looking for your lessons. Instead of having to cross 12-lane highways peppered with semi-trucks or use a rope to swing over massive pits of quicksand, a wiser you often finds an easier path. Most of your lessons are right in front of your face, not on the other side of the highway or the quicksand. When you learn to look for them, you encounter less peril as you go along obtaining your shit (aka lessons).
And the Big Bosses? That's where you can really see the spiral in action. Each of us has just a few Big Bosses in our lives, a specific few wounds that we've come here to heal, limits that we've come to release, core lessons that we are here to master. Mastery doesn't occur on just one level. To truly master something, you have to face it on every level. Each time you are ready to level up, one or more of your Big Bosses are waiting to level up with you. It's not exactly the same Boss you faced on the last level. But it's not a novel foe, either. It's the same lesson in a new guise, the same Boss with a new outfit and sword. It's the version of your healing or expansion that the current version of you is ready to tackle. You'll never see that exact version again, but you'll see the very same theme at the end of your next level.
When I first began to level up my relationship with money, I faced one of my life's Big Bosses, Lack Consciousness. For me, lack showed up as the Boss named I Can't Afford That. Initially, to beat I Can't Afford That I had to learn how to do simple things like buy socks when the ones I had developed holes. Cha-ching! Level up. In the next level, I had to master recognizing that I can afford anything, but often choose not to spend my money on things because saving and investing is more important to me. In this level, I Can't Afford That was bested by changing my language around spending. Cha-ching! Level up. Next I learned how to buy things I don't need without guilt. I Can't Afford That fell again. Cha-ching! Most recently, I Can't Afford That showed up in my business. This time a pair of socks or some earrings from Crafted With Light weren't going to cut it. I had leveled up, many times. My Boss had leveled up with me. To slay I Can't Afford That on this level, I had to invest $15,000 in my business, before I had made the money. Cha. Ching. Level up. (You can read more about one of my most precious level ups in I Said Yes to the Dress.)
I beat that Boss. Again. But he will be back in a new and elevated form. Because that's how it goes. My next I Can't Afford That would have been impossible for me to beat 5 years ago, just like buying socks is not a challenge for Wee Deb (or Real Deb) today. As you best your core challenges at your current level, they evolve with you. Evolution may not be linear, but it is progressive. Think of the shape of a spiral. With each revolution, it rises higher, and also broadens, while at the same time its center point remains the same. This is the path of your growth, your healing.
As you bop through life collecting shit (aka lessons), you find healing for your hurts. You develop new skills. You gain awareness, deepen your connection to purpose. You rise, and you broaden. But your center remains the same. We don't call them "core" wounds and lessons for nothing, babe. Your soul made a deliberate choice to incarnate here and now, in this body, at this point in history, and with this specific core. You're quite literally here to turn circles around the same spot for all of your human days.
But think again of the shape of the spiral. Each revolution turns around the same center point, but no two revolutions are the same. Each is its own non-linear turn around its axis. With each level you become a more expansive version of yourself, and you are able to face your Bosses on increasingly higher planes. When you see the same lessons coming at you again, the same limits you've bested in the past, the same wounds asking for deeper healing, know that nothing has gone wrong. You've just made another turn around the spiral. You've evolved beyond the human that faced these challenges, learned these lessons, healed these wounds as it was done in the past. You're now capable of slaying your Boss on an entirely new level. When you do, you'll embark on another revolution, once again broadening and rising. Cha-ching. Level up.
Lest this idea of turning 'round the same axis for 80-plus years cause your brave heart to falter, return once again to the shape of the spiral. Because each revolution is both higher and broader, each pass around the center takes more time. The time spent in game play becomes longer, Bosses show their predictably menacing faces less often. And you have the benefit of an increasingly higher vantage point. Imagine Wee You in that pixelated world, facing the same boss for the thirteenth, thirtieth, or three-hundredth time. You know his tricks, his weaknesses, the patterns of his movements. Yes, he may be bigger now than he was a few years ago. Perhaps in this level he has a few fire balls to throw, or holds swords in both hands. But despite all of that, he's the same Boss. You beat him the same way you've always beaten him, albeit with a more refined set of skills. At some point, facing these foes takes on a bit of an "oh, you again?" air. Oh, you again? Come on, baddy, let's throw down and get this over with. I'm ready to level up.
This understanding, that healing and expansion are naturally non-linear and my repeated experience facing the same challenges is merely an expression of a natural energetic pattern, has brought me great peace. I no longer view my healing or evolution like a to-do list, with a set of boxes to be checked denoting items which I will never have to complete again. I've ridden some distance up the spiral. The view here is much more clear than when I was turning dizzying circles at the outset of my journey. I am now able to enjoy the long, graceful arc of the spiral, and to notice when the Bosses are looming. I know their names, their choreographed strategies. I know what it takes to beat them, and how to celebrate my victories without falling prey to my past delusions of linear progress.
I share this with you, the shape of expansion, because I hope it will do the same for you, give you peace and the power to understand that nothing has gone wrong in your healing, your evolution. You're traveling the spiral, as we all are. You have your Bosses, as I have mine. If you were attached to the off-beam concept of linear progression, I invite you to let that go now. If you didn't know when you came here, you are now aware of what needs to be done. Get out there, collect your shit (aka lessons), and watch for the Big Boss to come, again. Don't bother anymore with anticipating a new Boss. This will be one you've seen before. When you see the Boss, it means you are ready fight. The next level, of you and your core challenges, is waiting. Get in that arena, and fight until you win. Cha-ching! Level up.