Over the course of my career as a clinical psychologist, I have thought very deeply about progress, regress and stasis. Why do some people go forward, others go backward, others still go nowhere at all? Additionally, what is elemental about the process of authentic psychotherapeutic intervention, as well as, personal mentoring which is key for any meaningful healing and growth to occur and also for all healing and growth to be meaningfully sustained?
Common sense suggests that relapse is ’hard-wired’ into the human condition and achievement-to-criterion on a given task or adaptive skills-competency results and obtains either from “single-trial” learning or, more likely, by “successive approximation.”
Thus, if we do not get it right the first time, we can probably do it better the next time, and better still the time after, and so on, ad infinitum, until one’s maximum capacity has been reached.
Yet, why does progress often stall or plateau or even worsen despite the “best efforts” of all stakeholders involved?
To me the answer is really “quite elementary:” progression and regression are each opposite sides of the same coin, without which, the coin cannot endure. Consequently, the imagery which may be useful to conjure is that of a relatively continuous spiral consisting of asymmetrical curves and loop-lengths which go forward and backward into the present, all-the-while, iterating, reiterating and consolidating adaptive gains with requisite progress and regress.
A heuristic foundational algorithm by which, theoretically, and through which, methodologically all healing and growth oriented activities occurs is, thus, formulated. It may very well be the case that this hypothesized model may have applicability to how many, if not how most, of the processes in the universe developmentally occur, to wit:
First, growth occurs through the successful resolution of conflict, whether between others or within oneself or in the “give and take” within and between one’s lived life-context.
In the absence of conflict and its successful, albeit incremental resolution, growth does not fully occur. However, where conditions are ripe for the successful resolution of conflict, growth is possible and is predicted to more likely obtain and result over space, time and perspective.
Second, growth occurs over “psychological time.” Since time is really an hypothetical construct, it can be defined in linear, curvilinear and many other innovative ways to serve the varying competing and conflicting needs, wants and requirements of one’s adaptive resources relative to both the multiplicity of stresses and presses of life’s adjustive demands. Because “psychological time” is predicated subjectively, it elapses relative to its perceiver/experiencer. As such, it is a highly subjective notion and must be deeply respected since “psychological time” cannot be forced.
Third, the model predicts that any progress will invariably lead to regress in service of what is necessary that must be done for consolidation to result. It is less relevant to experience progression or regression, per se, because “if you fail to heed the lessons from history, you are doomed to repeat it”. Moreover, in order to integrate meaningful and enduring adaptive competencies, one must partake of an asymmetrical ’dialectical loop’ by which the “movement” goes forward and backward into the ”moment of the present.”
Hence, “movement” is essential as the ”inertia of movement” informs and reforms the outcome of any process until the resultant dynamism becomes transformed or deformed.
Stasis or “plateuing” serves to facilitate new learning connections to become rooted, consolidate and sprout.
Finally, the healing and growth call to action is forever and ever and always and always forward and backward into the present. In brief, one is encouraged to faithfully commit to life-long learning in service of navigating and then integrating work, love and play into one’s emerging and evolving lived life.
Author Note: Dr. Larry B. Gelman is a Clinical Psychologist and a Personal Mentor
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