New Year for Growth through Compassion

"I'm doing so well! This personal growth stuff is a piece of cake and feels good!"

"Crap. I screwed up again. I suck at this stuff and just can't do it right."

Two steps forward and one step back. This makes sense. Personal growth is a learning and integration process. Part of the process is stumbling. If you already knew the path and had the answers, you would be at your destination. But it truly is a journey not a destination; a journey that involves pulling back layers, acceptance, and continually choosing to be on your journey.

I was working with a male client who wanted to be kinder to his girlfriend. He often snapped at her in frustration, despite being deeply in love with her. He was mimicking the patterns from his upbringing. His commitment to this unlearning and new learning allowed for impressive progress. However, on one occasion when we spoke, he was bemoaning a recent snapping incident and harshly blaming himself. We spoke about shifting from blaming to responsibility, and how to engage in personal growth with compassion.

Cheri Huber, Buddhist teacher, writes, "Rejection does not lead to compassion. Compassion leads to compassion. Rejection leads to rejection."

Mentally abusing yourself only adds fuel to the fire of negativity and frustration. Perhaps it would be helpful to view the "one step back" as actually a "step to the side." With your two steps forward, you will have new perspective on your patterns, even when it feels like you're still repeating them. This side view can allow the space for reflection and analysis, instead of rejection and negativity.

It's impossible to know where your personal growth journey will lead. What is possible to know is that you will stumble on the journey - and that's alright.

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego