The Gifts of a Non-Linear Path

By Nasreen Gulamhusein

A client recently came in for counseling and during our session, she hit a wall of frustration and exclaimed, “Why am I here again? I thought I had solved this problem already!” It was a beautiful question that many of us can relate to: why do we keep circling back to the same issues?

One common misconception about personal growth is that the journey should be linear. We identify our problem, work on it, solve it, and move on. However, the reality is that growth and expansion are often non-linear, with many steps forward and back.

While this might not sound ideal, it’s actually good news… and here are a few reasons why:

First, lasting change requires rewiring our brains with new habits and ways of thinking. Repetition is crucial for this rewiring process, and taking two steps forward and one step back allows us to go over our learning again and again. Our brains are wired to see things in a linear way, but this desire for clarity can sometimes lead us to overlook the importance of repetition. The messy and frustrating feeling of repetition is necessary for us to learn and grow in a lasting way.

Secondly, each layer of the onion is exactly that – a layer. We might think we have solved a problem, only for it to crop up again in a different context. For example, if we work on setting boundaries in friendships, we might later find ourselves struggling with boundaries as a parent. But each time we revisit an issue, we are in a slightly different place on our life’s path, and this makes the moment of growth unique.

Lastly, expanded perception can make all the difference. When we are trying to solve a problem, we tend to see it from one angle. As we get more entrenched in that single perspective, we can become stuck. When life brings us back to that struggle, it can be an opportunity to see it from a different perspective, which can widen our horizon and give us a clearer view of the issue as a whole. This can help us move through the struggle with greater ease the next time around.

The gifts of a non-linear path are many. Each time we revisit an issue, we have the opportunity to learn and grow in a new way. This, in turn, makes us better at learning and growing in general. So, the next time you find yourself circling back to an old struggle, embrace the messiness and remember it is leading you to good things.

I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats That Don’t Exist

By Shahaa Kakar

I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats that Don’t Exist.
I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats that Don’t Exist.
I Don’t Need to Plan for Threats that Don’t Exist.

This is a mantra I have been repeating to myself today.

For people with anxiety, our minds are constantly playing out every possible disaster scenario and planning how to respond to them, should they occur:

“What if this happens? What if that happens? How will I cope then? How will I deal with that? What if something happens that I haven’t even thought of!”

Our minds go spinning off into all sorts of imagined apocalypses. Even though these threats are not real, this thought process is anxiety-inducing in itself and triggers a stress response in our bodies. Our nervous systems don’t know the difference between real and imagined. Our heart rate speeds up, the adrenaline starts pumping and we go into fight-or-flight mode (or maybe live there), ready to respond to the non-existent threat.

Have you ever noticed this when you watch a really scary TV show, for example? Your back might start tensing up, you may notice yourself holding your breath. It’s the same physiological response at work – and over time it has a toxic effect on our beings and our bodies. It’s not a nice way to live!

When you notice your mind running down these paths, pause, take a deep breath and remind yourself, you are safe in this moment and everything is okay. You don’t need to prepare for impending disaster. You are perfectly capable of responding to anything that actually happens.

In the meantime, come back to this moment. Physically turn your head and look around in all directions. This act of turning our heads signals to the brain to take in the current information. Perhaps you notice a beautiful painting in your room or a lovely tree outside your window. Take a moment to really notice it. Breathe it in and notice what it feels like in your body to be present with the beautiful painting or the lovely tree.

Then, if you want to take one step further, put your vivid imagination to good use and imagine the situation you were worried about now working out. See it fall into place in your mind’s eye and imagine how great you will feel when that happens. If you have a mind that needs to plan, plan how you will celebrate when this happens! 🙂

Repeat as needed. Everything is okay. You got this!