How does a breakthrough become more than just a momentary rupture in our status quo, and actually result in lasting, meaningful change to our person, our behaviour and our life?
I have asked myself this question endlessly, both as an individual on a path of conscious healing who’s trying to figure out all of the stops and starts, all of the roadblocks and beacons - and as a facilitator who helps others both “breakthrough” oppressive patterns or situations, and learn how to anchor new ways of being in their lives day to day.
It’s an enormously profound subject: Having breakthroughs and revelatory experiences is really the easy part - the heavy lifting comes when we attempt to embody these lessons, insights, or ways of being in the complexity of human relationship - in the incredibly challenging playing field of the world at large.
A breakthrough or revelation is of little practical value to us if we cannot hold it - if we lack the integration to put it into practice.
I’ve witnessed this personally over and over again: With distance and breathing room it can be very easy for me to explore and process different aspects of myself - parts of me that are wounded, toxic, misguided and harmful to myself and others. From a safe distance, I can pat myself on the back for having such bravery and self awareness.
However, when those parts are actually activated - in the heat of the moment when life has thrown a curveball, and it comes down to clearly seeing my wounds and mindfully challenging the entrenched patterns at play - that’s not so easy.
Let me give a brief personal example:
One pattern that I have carried is the tendency to withhold or censor myself in order to be “nice” to others. It’s not something that applies to all relationships all of the time, but as a child I learned very clearly that sharing my truth could hurt others - that I could be punished severely for it - so I developed an unconscious program of self-censorship. As a child, that meant survival - as an adult, that means inauthenticity.
This would come up for me in intimate relationships a lot - I would be afraid of sharing my true feelings whenever there was a possibility they might hurt my partner. As you can imagine, this never went well.
At a bare minimum, my withholding in this type of situation caused my entire being to become misaligned: by holding in emotion and energy, I would become tense, awkward, distant, or even physically ill - it is extremely uncomfortable holding in your feelings in this way!
To make matters more interesting, for a very long time I didn’t even know any of this was happening! I had done such a thorough job of burying these impulses within myself as a child - and had gotten so used to being emotionally constipated and uncomfortable - that it was all just normal to me.
It wasn’t until my mid twenties when I began my own therapeutic journey that I started to see, and started to own, what was going on beneath the surface here. Bit by bit, more of my feelings, more of myself, rose to the surface of my awareness. I had, over time, many breakthroughs - in meditation and through inner work, with a trusted facilitator, with friends and partners. I was blessed with moments of profound reconnection to self, clarity and insight.
And yet, my pattern of withholding in those moments when it really counted continued.
I had clear intellectual understanding. I even had new reference points for connecting to my emotional body - for feeling, understanding, processing and communicating my emotions. And yet my pattern continued - its tracks so well worn in my consciousness.
Eventually it dawned on me: A breakthrough doesn’t necessarily mean an instant graduation into a new way of being. Some of the time, for some individuals, that does happen. But more often, a breakthrough simply provides a new reference point - a new option has been added to the map of our consciousness. It then falls on us to choose that new option consciously within the pressures of daily life. And we must navigate through possibly decades of well worn pattern, with its unconscious momentum, in order to make that new choice. No small feat.
To keep our heart open, rather than reflexively close it off - or to be open and honest, rather than withholding or overcompensating - could be two examples of this kind of choosing-between old and new paradigms.
As I progressed in my exploration of withholding in intimate relationship, I clearly remember going on a fateful first date, and almost imagining a bunch of people watching me, keeping me accountable to not withhold when I normally would. I studied myself constantly throughout the date - making sure I shared fully and completely whenever I had a contradictory perspective or impression - the exact moments when I would normally have witheld.
The date went amazingly well - despite me feeling a bit high strung while straining to see my blind spot and be present to the moment. And while I cannot say I have recovered one hundred percent from my affliction of witholding, I can say that in the context of intimate relationship, the difference is night and day. And the reality I now get to experience of transparency and vulnerability is one million times more satisfying than staying stuck in my old pattern.
It wasn’t my breakthroughs alone that directly made that shift though - it was my choice to embody what they were telling me. It was also the key people I had around me who were holding me accountable to a higher level of living - were it not for the guidance of my mentor and close friends, I may not have had the ability to self assess clearly and choose something altogether foreign. These days, as a facilitator, I am blessed to get to pay that service forward when I work with others on the very same types of change.
Making that shift wasn’t easy - it actually felt extremely awkward and forced on those first dates when I had countless imaginary eyeballs keeping me accountable.
That’s because despite my breakthroughs, my learned behaviour had decades of habituation in my psyche - the patterns ran deep, and were firmly entrenched.
That does NOT mean, however, that they are unchangeable. Why would we even be here, learning these lessons, if that were the case?
It just means that I, you, we have to be disciplined, consistent and committed to the bigger picture of our growth. One step at a time, day by day, we evolve.
Sometimes we take a quantum leap, sometimes a quantum regression. But in the bigger picture, I am convinced that given clear, consistent intention and openness, each of those breakthroughs we have does lead us into a deeper alignment with our heart and our true self - to incredible, tangible change.
What about you - have you had major breakthroughs that led to instantaneous, overnight transformation? Or are you more like me (and most of the people I work with and know): where your revelatory experiences come attached with a sometimes clumsy, real world integration package?
I would love to hear if you have any thoughts or experiences - comment below or send me a message!
About The Author:
Hi, my name is Miles. I am a writer & facilitator that helps people step into an aligned, beautiful and empowered life through conscious relationship work, emotional work, shadow integration and much more.
I am passionate about this work because when we step into alignment with our souls, pure magic happens - and I know of nothing more healing or beautiful.