What is the difference between a negative and a positive experience? This is a riddle, friends. Haven’t you noticed how, so often, there appears to be but a hairsbreadth difference between an experience that can “break you” or “make you”? In life maps coaching, I see this alot with people. Two people can experience very similar events, like a car accident or an illness, yet their understanding of or response to those events can be like night and day.
Two people who engaged in life mapping are Scott and Will (pseudonyms). Scott expressed a Life Metaphor when he told me twice, “They ought to give me a Ph.D. in the Hard Knocks of Life!” Will expressed a more prosaic, very detailed Life Metaphor, after closing his eyes to meditate on “What is a human lifetime like?” His image: “Life is like a golden spiral with launch pads on various rings of the spiral that propel one to ever higher levels of realization!” Hmm. Two people, two very different metaphors for life. Why, do you suppose? And, does it matter?
Scott’s life map traces a long series of Ups and Downs, especially with Work-related and Health-related events. He went through several years during which he would take a new job, move to where the job was, then lose the job and move back to his parents’. Scott had a car accident in the middle of all this which led to chronic back problems. He confided that with every loss in his life, he increasingly turned to “partying” with alcohol and drugs in an attempt to mask his pain. Life is Hard Knocks, says Scott, and certainly his life pattern conforms with that opinion.
Then there’s Will. Will is a retired pastor from the United Church of Christ. After choosing his religious vocation as a young man, Will graduated from a seminary, married bis best childhood friend and “soul mate”, and then he conducted a successful career as a pastor for some 40 years before retiring, still active in his faith and father of two successful sons. Will’s life map depicts a series of extremely positive events, as might be expected. Still, even Will’s life map records three deep ‘troughs’, widely spaced but difficult times of Descent, in Will’s terms. These were times of soul searching, he said. Dealing with a diagnosis of diabetes, facing his mother’s death, and facing retirement were, to Will, those “launch pad” events along his “Golden Spiral” lifetime that propelled him every time up to the next rung of the spiral.
Both Scott and Will have encountered challenging situations in their lives, though Scott’s life of “Hard Knocks” does appear to have been more characterized by Downs, while Will’s has been more consistently a positive experience. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? To what extent do our Life Metaphors–interpretive lenses through which we frame and interpret life events–serve as self-fulfilling prophecies that, indeed, not only reflect but also perpetuate their own image? Someone says, “Life is a Roller Coaster” and lo, that person’s life does continue to drag the person through a challenging, bipolar sequence of challenging Ups and Downs. Yes, but there’s another side to that picture. If our Life Metaphors serve as mindsets or cognitive schema models that can either enhance or limit our interpretation of life events, then it stands to reason that finding a way to CHANGE a self-limiting Life Metaphor might also facilitate (or reflect) a more positive trend in a person’s life pattern! I have witnessed many persons whose outlooks on life have changed dramatically in conjunction with a consciously created upturn in life experience.
After completing his life map and reflecting on its patterns, Scott told me at his closing session that he had begun to investigate various spiritual teachings. He was aiming to “make better sense” of his life, so he could “find more balance”. I was happy to hear that Scott had placed himself onto a track toward Better Endings!
So if you were today fully living the life of your dreams, what Life Metaphor might best mirror your life Now?
Better Endings to you. Linda