Imagine a moment in your life when you experienced déjà vu of the not-so-good variety. When an unpleasant story or incident that you’ve previously lived through comes back around and you find yourself wondering how you got here. Maybe shaking your fist at the heavens, feeling utterly dumbstruck or just plain weary.
What we often forget is that these experiences show up again and again with one goal in mind: To spur us into transformation.
As humans, we are extremely adept at managing and normalizing. Oftentimes, rather than taking the time to fully understand the lesson we were meant to learn when a difficult situation arises, we’ll dodge and rationalize, blame and defend, turn a blind eye to the message that is being transmitted through that tough experience.
We become content with sticking to what we know, even if that choice leaves us feeling dejected and confused.
It can look all sorts of ways: Dating people that aren’t good for you, time and again. Heading into the same painful argument with your spouse with no solution in sight. Getting fired from a series of jobs for similar reasons. Experiencing the same illness many times over.
The point being that the repeats usually have an underlying message for you.
And so they show up as many times as necessary to get your attention. Tactically reinserting themselves into your life, breaking down your carefully-constructed methods of coping and compartmentalizing until you can’t ignore them anymore.
This is the juncture that is ripe with potential for you to choose a different path. To drop your well-oiled instinct to sidestep or band-aid things before any more damage is done. Choose to stop pulling up the bootstraps so that no-one is the wiser, least of all you.
In fact, these are the moments that beg breakdown. Honest to goodness shattering of control, management of anything and everything that might cause a mess.
This is what repetition is often about – inciting chaos, disruption and discomfort in order to get your undivided attention. An attempt to interrupt the survival tactics that keep you from truly gaining ground.
And I’m not talking about patterns that are joyful and happy-making. I’m talking about the patterns that jostle you, shake you down, strip you down, anger you, make you wish that anything but that thing were happening again.
The ones that have you up at night, shedding tears of pure surrender or uttering the words Why me? through gritted teeth.
These situations are asking for earnest reflection. Contemplation of what you are contributing in the Great Conspiracy that keeps hitting the “Repeat” button. A willingness to admit that you might be getting in your own way, fueling the fire – and that a shift in your choices and behavior is likely required in order for you to find the peace you seek.
No small amount of courage is required for these moments to be met. Truly met. Not conversed with in urgent prayer for five minutes before we make a move to soothe ourselves into greener pastures. But met as if we are taking a vow of marriage. In it for the long haul. For better or worse. So that we might see every facet of the repeating circumstance without running away before we get to the bottom of things.
Because that’s what is ultimately being asked of us: An archaeological dig.
We must be willing to get out shovels and picks, brushes and microscopes, so that we might properly examine the full contents of our repeating patterns of behavior. Get to the heart of what brings back these upsets so that we can dismantle them, regain our power over them, shift the burden of their weight from our shoulders.
This asks us to trust the process of revelation. Trust that the very nature of excavation, though sometimes painstaking, is to move us toward more self-knowing, deeper understanding of our humanness.
For the more truth we tell ourselves about ourselves, the more we cultivate ease, move away from the suffering brought on by maintaining half-truths, squirreling away the complete picture of all that makes us whole.
Only then does repetition become an agent of profound transformation.