Forward and through are two essential life lessons, but they are so connected that I share them in a single post.
As last week’s post on spiritual bypassing implies, the only way forward is through.
So let’s break both down.
Welcome to 50-for-50. This post is part of a collection of 50 things I’m doing involving the number 5 to celebrate my 50th trip around the sun. Over the next year, I will highlight 50 lessons from my life that have the greatest impact on who I am today. You can read all 50 lessons here or sign up for a full 50-for-50 weekly recaps here.
Socrates once said:
The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
I spent the first eight years of my healing journey trying to fix myself. I did a ton of therapy and read a whole slew of books. During this time I also engaged in group work in several settings, ranging from anonymous groups to a Survivor’s Workshop at The Meadows. I learned a lot, and I won’t write off those learnings because I still use that information and those experiences to my benefit today, but there is one problem.
When my second wife moved out, I was struggling with the same things I did when my first marriage ended.
Some of my behaviors were different. I got better at not acting on my impulses. So I guess if all that matters is externals then things were different, but the same emotions and impulses still riddled my day-to-day experience.
So I stopped trying to fix who I was and aimed to do two things. One was to stop seeing myself as broken and start loving myself (there’s another post for another time) and to focus not on my past, but on my future. I decided to move forward and build a life I wanted to live.
Dealing with what was broken turned into a creative act.
Drudgery became playful.
Fighting procrastination turned into eager anticipation.
Needing to “get things right” became an act of constantly pivoting and discovering what unfolded around every corner.
But that doesn’t mean the new journey is all bliss, because while “forward” creates excitement and anticipation, “through” brings challenge.
One of the best books on trauma is, “The Body Keeps The Score” (affiliate). In it, Basil Van der Kolk unpacks his research on the physical effects of traumatic experiences. The short version is that our bodies carry the weight of a past that has harmed us.
That said, just because our past has harmed us doesn’t mean our bodies need to keep carrying it, because trauma isn’t about what happens to us, but what we do with it.
As you move forward, life is bound to stir up shit from your past. And, as we will discover next week, that’s a good thing. But it’s not easy.
The easy thing would be to avoid a life that triggers those undesirable responses (like embracing spiritual bypassing). If that isn’t an option, then just responding to the trauma would be the next easiest solution, but that means you’re not moving forward and nothing changes. No, the only way forward, is through.
Going “through” means you feel the emotions that stir up. You recognize where they come from and own what happened then, but also embrace the reality that it is no longer then and you are now a different person, a wise person, a more resourced person, and you can handle the situation differently today.
“Through” means working out what you’ve avoided and coming out different on the other side. Notice how this is the only way to move forward.
Tools For The Journey
So what helps me move forward and through? These tools break down into two categories, ones that help me understand myself and actual tools on the journey forward and through.
Note: All book links are affiliates.
Tools for Understanding
- Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche – To get somewhere, you first need to understand where you are. This book will help you do that. It will also guide you in the early stages of the journey through.
- The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries – While Wild Mind will get you going, The Journey of Soul Initiation, can serve as a map to your destination. It helps you cast a vision of what forward might look like and will normalize the challenges of the journey, stemming some of the loneliness when “through” feels like too much.
Tools for Moving Forward and Through
- Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self – I’m not sure how others use this book, but for me, it’s a powerful tool when I know I feel something, but I’m not sure what it is I’m feeling. When that happens, I start with the question, “Where in my body am I feeling?” Then I read about the corresponding chakra and ask, “Does anything there help make sense of what I feel?” I’m amazed at how often it does.
- Psychedelic Breathwork – Breathwork is another tool to help me understand what is happening. It helps me bypass the protective ego and hear from my rawer and more honest psyche. It’s proven to be such a powerful resource that I am now a certified facilitator.
- Holistic Life Coaching – For too much of my life, I tried to be who I was supposed to be rather than living from who I am. Holistic Life Coaching believes the answer lies within, and as we discover who we are, the way we respond and engage with the world around us changes. It is about moving from coping to healing to thriving, but it does it all with a forward focus.
How about you? What helps you move forward and through?