Why do we need to keep repeating life lessons?

July 16, 2018

There you go again:

Getting out of one negative relationship and attracting the same type of person in the next one. Changing jobs and having the same conflicts with your new coworkers. Vowing that you’re not going to be saddled with all the work at the next family gathering, only to find yourself in that role again Sounds like scenes from the movie, “Groundhog Day,” doesn’t it? Why does this keep happening, and what can you do about it?

The living lab

Your life is a living laboratory. Whenever you learn a lesson, you get the chance to apply it. The problem is, a lot of times you may think you’re ready to move on. And then the same lesson pops up in a different form. What’s up with that? You will continually attract the same lesson into your life until you actually break the patterns that keep these lessons from recurring. Yet, you keep thinking you’ll get it the second time around. Or third. Or fourth.

You’ll also draw the teachers to teach you that lesson until you get it right. I know from personal experience how hard it is to be grateful for those people at the time. They’re actually the ones you needed to drive the point home, though.

The emotional toolbox

It can be really tricky to nail down the lesson. A good first step is to pause when you’re in pain. As the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

Try journaling your thoughts about the situation — for your eyes ONLY. And be brutally honest with yourself.

Look back at how this situation has played out before. What needs are at the core? Is it a repeating pattern of wanting to be liked by others so much that you give up yourself? Or that you’re so afraid of being rejected that you reject the other person first? Maybe you continually find yourself in situations where the other person is emotionally unavailable because deep down you don’t think you are deserving.

Find your pattern, find your lesson

Sometimes the lesson isn’t apparent. That’s why you keep repeating it. And you may not uncover it until the most recent crisis has passed. I often say, “I wouldn’t have scripted things this way, although the end result is exactly what I needed.”

Solutions can be messy. If you really go inside and do the self-introspection, though, it’s worth it. Lots of time an external event will occur to force a change because we’re so resistant to change ourselves.

Here’s an example of a perfectionist, along with some strategies for coping, as described by author Marie T. Russell, the founder of InnerSelf Magazine. As a compulsive perfectionist, Cassidy keeps drawing inappropriate men into her life. It’s no coincidence that Cassidy, to whom mismatched socks are a horror, repeatedly draws men into her life who dress like slobs. Cassidy is a stickler for manners, yet her most recent boyfriend holds his spoon like Fred Flintstone wields a drumstick. Only recently did Cassidy begin to acknowledge that perhaps these men were appearing in her life as extreme teachers — providing opportunities for her to work out her perfectionist issue.

Seven steps for Change

1. Awareness — becoming conscious of the pattern or issue

2. Acknowledgment — admitting you need to release the pattern

3. Choice — actively selecting to release the pattern

4. Strategy — creating a realistic plan

5. Commitment — taking action, aided by external accountability

6. Celebration — rewarding yourself for succeeding

7. Consistency — using discipline to stay mindful about the lesson and spot any semblance of the pattern before it has a chance to take hold

I’ll add two more of my life principles that come in handy every day:

1. Don’t take things personally

2. Don’t make assumptions

You may recognize these as two of the agreements in author Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements. While these sound so simple, they’re really quite profound. Start to use them in your daily life, and you’ll relieve yourself of a lot of stress.

It’s an inside job

Should you change jobs? Is it best to stay in the relationship or move on? Are you doing what you love to do, or what other people want you to do? No doubt your inner voice has been trying to get your attention. It raises its hand again and again and asks to be heard.

Why don’t you listen? Because there is a much louder voice that bombards you with shiny objects and glorified achievements, explains writer Nicholas Cole. You let your ego get in the way.

The reason it’s such a challenge to change — and why this often takes a long time — is because the ego promises instant gratification and feeds on those core patterns of approval addiction, not being “good enough,” etc.

The more you ignore your inner voice, the more it will rumble beneath the surface. Cue the external event that forces a change.

Mid-life crisis, anyone?

©2018 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and Founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org.

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