We’re all the heroes of our own stories, but the heroes we admire in literature and on the screen find themselves undergoing spiritual and emotional transformations more often than they find themselves using the bathroom. If all of us are heroes, each going on a continuous, limitless, and recursive journey throughout the stages of our lives, then where are you in your journey? How does it relate to your current struggles? What lessons are here for you to learn?
What if, at the end of your journey, there’s even more out there for you?
In antiquity, science looked very different. Philosophy, religion, and science were far more intertwined and interchangeable, and one of these schools of proto-science was alchemy. In search of answers and solutions to life’s most permeating questions, alchemists would methodically refine and experiment with the elements. Sometimes repeating the stages over and over searching for their personal gold. There is a sizable nugget of ancient wisdom for us to take from this process: sometimes it takes repetition for the masterpiece to be made.
This isn’t to denigrate the gains made on the previous stages and run-throughs of your journey. This is just to say that there are endless possibilities to your self-improvement, and the more you improve, the more options you’ll see. The lessons that you learned were vital, and the changes you’ve made have made your everyday life less stressful, but now it’s time to leverage that comfort to improve the other facets of your life.
It can be all too easy to fall into a pit of self.
To decide that you have done enough work, and that it’s time to go on vacation from self-improvement. Binding yourself to this story is like feeding poison to your soul. We embark on our journeys because we need improvement on a biological level, and we crave the excitement of growth. We need change itself just as much as we need its symptoms.
It can be exhausting to reach the peak of the mountain, only to discover a taller cliff on the horizon. You are not foolish if you falter, as we’ve learned, every hero has to struggle with some form of denial, and you are no different. Even the greatest of warriors might someday wish to lay down their sword and go down a path of love and family instead of war. You climbed the mountain, not because it was the highest mountain, but because you wanted to be the person who climbed the mountain.
These feelings will give way to the breaking of boundaries.
By refining the elements of your life, you are expanding the scope of what you can achieve. Perhaps if your first journey was primarily a quest for career fulfillment, your next go-around will focus more on cultivating intimate relationships with the people around you. As you approach familiar growing pains, use your personal lived knowledge and recognize your own mistakes.
It’s helpful to be patient, and not just try to check all the boxes and get your personal growth over with. It’s more like tending a garden than competing in a race. The time you save will be negated when you have to do all the work again to check for your mistake.
As you go down the never-ending path to a better self, here are some actionable steps you can take:
See How Far You’ve Come.
Revisit the goals you set at the beginning of your journey. Which of them did you accomplish? Were there any just beyond your reach? Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently in accomplishing these goals? This exercise can show you the extent of your growth, and aid its perpetuation.
Take Your Lumps.
There comes a time in every human’s life where we really mess things up to the point that it seems like we’ve ruined everything. In these moments, one of the simplest impulses to fulfill is that of self-degradation, and insecurity. We flagellate ourselves over the errors of the past in an attempt to atone, but this only serves ourselves and our ego. Sometimes we make mistakes, and we just have to accept the loss with dignity.
Be Grateful For Your Challenges.
The obstacles we face in our lives can either be meaningless trials, or valuable lessons, depending on our attitude. We can, if we so choose, appreciate the lessons that are ahead of us even if they are challenging or exhausting. It is impossible to appreciate the lesson if you are whinging over the prospect of learning something. If you take a mindset of gratitude, it can change even the most disgusting or laborious of tasks into something meaningful and worthy of your time.
Book a therapy session.
If you are grappling intensely with the tides of your psyche, then there can be no clearer panacea than booking some time with a professional. A therapist can help you learn the type of skills that enable you to know your highest Self.
If you’re seeing a counselor as you repeat the stages of your journey, here are a few concepts to bring up in a session:
Sometimes when victims experience traumatic stimuli that are meaningless and beyond their control, they won’t strive for a solution because they believe the effort to be meaningless and beyond their control. This has proven true in a lab, not just with humans, but with dogs and mice as well. This points to a great truth hidden deep within our psyche: we’re only going to make meaningful changes, if we believe them to be within our capability. Investigate the struggles you believed at the beginning of your journey to be insurmountable. Perhaps now that the weight of the weary past is not quite so burdensome, you can move forward to earn the comforts you once believed to be fantasies.
I’ve thrown around the term DBT a lot in these articles, but what does that first word in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy even mean? In ancient Greece, philosophers and artists like Plato and Aristotle would write plays (called dialectics) wherein two characters would debate an idea, and through the argument portrayed, the audience is informed of some great wisdom. At its core, a dialectic is the synthesis of two seemingly contradictory ideas that together form a more complete truth. By refining our understanding of dialectics, we can better understand the seemingly oppositional forces that drive almost every facet of our emotional worlds.
But what’s the point of all this? Why are we improving ourselves if we can never be done? We’re supposed to take comfort and find gratitude even in failure? We can choose to find meaning and purpose even in toil or failure. If we can tell the story of our life in a way that imbues our current action with consequence and meaning, we can motivate ourselves to do anything.
The journey is long. So long that you’ll be travelling along its path for the rest of your life, maybe more than once. The pace can be grueling, because we don’t choose when we need to grow, only if. The rewards are countless, endless, ceaseless, and priceless.
If you happen to be searching for a therapist to offer guidance in this journey to fulfillment, we have an excellent team of therapists, analysts and specialists in narrative therapy who would love to help you. Other mental health services Integrative Counsel provides are art therapy, depression and anxiety treatment, improving codependency and boundaries, grief and life transition, accessing your body informed wisdom, and increasing mindfulness and awareness.
Sunny Ebsary is a writer and singer-songwriter from Tampa, FL. When he’s not sing-songwriting or just regular writing, he’s probably drinking water with a lot of ice, having a staring contest with his cat, or giving people great ideas. You can listen to Sunny’s music here.