Self-Development Hurts

By Jojo Furnival

flower, yellowI’ve had more depressive thoughts in the past five days than in the past five years. But I’m in a healing community and the sun is shining, so how come?
When I arrived, I had nearly 30 years of coping mechanisms under my belt, finely tuned over the years to sustain a happy disposition. My strategies were tailor-made, bespoke to me, and they worked just fine. With one minor side effect: my body didn’t agree.
So, on a quest for better physical health, I resolved to reconnect with my body and my deeper ‘self’, absorbing while I was here as much information for self-development as possible, and you know what I found?

Oodles and oodles and oodles of pain.

I’ve spent the best part of four months unpicking my life, my personality, what I ‘know’ and how I think, trying to absorb new mindful ways to manage whatever out of life’s toolbox of suffering will fly at me next. In fact, for a while there I really didn’t feel any better equipped; I felt weakened, worried and considerably worse about myself.

I walked in here at the start of March, already looking at things differently, having handed in my notice at work and let my flat out to friends, feeling empowered and excited. I felt I could lift weights with my strength of mind.

My body, by contrast, was weak and battling recurrent infections, my asthma was a problem every time the seasons changed and I’d suffer bronchitis at least twice a year. But in fairness, I had been very stressed. Working in a high profile international business communications consultancy in the city, managing client accounts for a very small team of two (and a half) people in the niche consumer offering, I was all, ‘work hard, play hard’. I pushed myself to the limit and then beyond it. I was worn out.

So I was ready to slow down, be kind to myself, relinquish responsibility.

I was not ready to relearn how to be.

The past few days have presented me with more tailor made challenges than I was ready to cope with using my brand-new-out-the-box ‘this is how we do life’ tips and tricks. I needed my old coping strategies, like denial and avoidance – they were bloody good.

Everyone kept saying to me, ‘This is how it’s supposed to feel. Change hurts’. Yet, it all just felt so painful, wrong even, just one thing after another after another, like a relentless conveyor belt of ‘things to work on’.

Then another community member who I’m very close to came to see me one night just before bedtime. This person whispered in my ear the words, ‘You’re not a bad person…tomorrow’s a new day’. The next day after breakfast, it finally struck me.

It takes a lot of energy for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly. I imagine it’s pretty dark inside a chrysalis, gloomy even. Maybe that’s where I have been lately, now even, inside my chrysalis rebuilding, recharging for a new incarnation.

As a writer, I am predisposed to be wary of predictable similes and metaphors – the caterpillar to butterfly transformation story is a path well trodden – but, like most classic stories, it’s repeated for a reason: it works. There’s enough truth in it for enough different people to warrant its position in history’s top score of repetitions. After all, what is it that differentiates between cliché and wisdom? A willingness to see it as such?

You can read more of Jojo’s writing here on the Huffington Post and on her travel & adventure blog Feral Beryl Travels.

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  1. Lovely article Jojo, beautifully expressed. I experienced the same feelings when I scratched the surface of my ‘okayness’. I am partly looking forward to returning as a resident next year and partly apprehensive about dealing with all that supressed stuff, but I am determined to do it. Good on you for being brave enough to change xx

  2. Thank you Maggie! So kind of you to comment. I’ve left NLF now, but I still blog for Huffington Post – Google Jojo Huffington Post and I should come up 🙂 Good luck returning to New Life!

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