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The Rhythm of Self Development the Usual the Breakthrough and the Integration


What We Pay Attention To
We pay attention to something that is different to what is around it.

  • A moving figure in a still landscape
  • A stationary rock in a flowing river
  • Music surrounded by silence
  • A drone in a chaos of sound
  • A hint of spice in bland food
  • A cool taste in a spicy meal
  • Intensity against boredom
  • Calmness when we are feeling overwhelmed


What We Pay Attention to in Self Development
In self development we tend to pay attention to the breakthrough(s).
– the flashes of insight that illuminate the ordinary.
– those times of liberation that open the door to a new way of living.


Most of our lives are ordinary, usual.

  • We put our clothes on in pretty much the same way each day.
  • We tend to the needs of ourselves and those we love – in more or less satisfactory ways.

So the breakthroughs stand out.

And they stand out in our memory too. Because after the breakthrough we live a new normal. The breakthrough can be followed by integration:

  • we find a way to live that is not hostile to our emotions
  • we begin a loving relationship
  • we pay attention to our intuition


A Breakthrough Can Feel Amazing
Our breakthroughs normally have an intensity that the rest of our life doesn’t. Though less often the breakthrough is a relaxation of tension – something like: Oh, I don’t have to do that.

The high is great and so you want another one. I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with this. Some people love roller-coasters others love a calm and steady rhythm (I’m one of the calm and steady group).

This can become a problem when the workshop or next self development book or program becomes the only time you feel fully alive. You become a self development junkie or workshop junkie.

The problem comes when we try and have the breakthrough over again instead of living the new life that has opened up for us. It is like wanting to fall in love again, rather than feel deeper and more profound love for the person we fell in love with.


Feel the Feeling
Emotions are to be expressed – when they are fully expressed we feel the next emotion that comes along. When we don’t express them fully a part of us remains stuck on that unexpressed feeling.

[When someone thinks you are too emotional and tells you to, “Get over it”; know that the quickest – and perhaps the only – way to ‘get over it’ is to express the emotion fully. You don’t have to do this all at once; you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by the emotion; you just need to express it with all of who you are.]

So the way to move on from the breakthrough is to feel it fully. Enjoy the elation if that is what comes, or cry or plan – whatever it is for you.


We get used to some things quite quickly. So we can forget how much better our lives are now compared to what they were before. Our lives are just usual – and we forget that our new usual is feeling ok about ourselves or not having that particular bad relationship dominating our life. So it can be worth setting up quite deliberate reminders of how far we’ve come (and even one step is worth celebrating I think).

The integration can be quite deliberate work. The breakthrough is usually to some extent unconscious or spontaneous – usually we are taken by surprise to some extent. The integration, the development of a new life can feel a good deal more pedestrian compared to the elation of the breakthrough.

For instance, you realise that in your relationship with your spouse that you can ask for what you want. It is worth thinking about what this means in different areas:

  • domestic duties
  • planning outings
  • financial expenditure

Each of these could need quite different innovations and ways of talking about them.

And then it may lead to differences in other relationships too. What does it mean to ask for what you want from your:

  • Parents?
  • Children?
  • Friends?
  • Work colleagues?

How you change these relationships could be quite different to how you change your relationship with your spouse.

One way of seeing the integration is applying the breakthrough to what was your usual way of life. You create the future by changing how you did things in the past. In this way the breakthrough doesn’t stay only emotional or intellectual (or both) but comes to pervade all our life.

It can be hard work to break an old habit – or learn a new way of doing things which we don’t have a clue about. I think it will help if you:

  • celebrate each new step
  • find ways to take regular enjoyable breaks
  • find the easiest way to do the new stuff
  • do one or two new things rather than trying to do everything at once


The breakthrough and the integration are both important for our development.

  • Without the breakthrough there’d be nothing to integrate.
  • Without integration the value of the breakthrough can be lost.


I want to draw your attention to the rhythm of our development – from your usual way of living, to the breakthrough, to the integration (the new usual) – to shift the focus from the breakthrough alone. I want to draw your attention to the importance of the integration of the breakthrough, and the need to alter our usual way of life. And I want to remind you that by taking small steps after the breakthrough you can build a deeply satisfying life.


I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don't hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Barbara 2012/09/20, 10:23 am

    Hi Evan,

    I like the outline form you’ve given to define change. It all makes logical sense to me. I think I’ve experienced the ‘steps’ as you’ve said, getting me to integration, but I have to admit to a lingering doubt.

    My eyes and my ability to stay focused as I was reading sort of glazed over when you talked about a fully experienced emotion.

    In other words, I find myself coming up with the notion, I may or may not have felt an emotion completely. I’m not sure I know how to feel an emotion completely, using a model of beginning-middle-end. Or maybe I just don’t know how to identify what it feels like to have an emotion ‘end’. I suppose if anything I’d have to say I fall into the unconscious experiencing you referenced.

    My guess it may be hard for me to do this since I experience flashbacks regularly, which makes some things feel like they may never ‘go away’. I can be astounded sometimes. Things I thought were ‘over’ are back again. Even though I know they aren’t really happening again, I am in a version of having an emotional experience. And yes, I do know I don’t actually want anything to go away, it is instead resolution I seek, or integration as you say.

  • Evan 2012/09/20, 11:06 am

    Hi Barbara, thanks this helps me clarify my thinking.

    First about feeling an emotion completely. You probably do this with little things a lot. A flash of anger when someone cuts you off in traffic – you swear or send them loving thoughts or whatever and your attention goes back to driving and you don’t think about it again. There are physiological signals like our breathing returning to normal and contracted muscles (perhaps shoulders and hands with anger) relaxing.

    Expressing an emotion completely, if it is something more than trivial, will usually involve moving our body and often giving it words (unless you aren’t particularly verbal). An abstract way of putting it would be: knowing what we feel and why and allowing this to move our body.

    My take on flashbacks and triggers is that they happen ‘automatically’ i.e. before we think; beyond our conscious (immediate) control. This is somewhat different to feeling disappointed or angry about what someone has said where the emotion is to do with current events. Our heart or gut reacts before our head knows what is going on. To be finished with these emotions means ‘educating’ our heart or gut. It is often educating the child inside that they are safe now – when they weren’t during the time we flash back to. A child whose life is in danger (esp. when this was frequent) will take a lot of convincing.

    And this education process will be different for everyone. Depending on what the experience was and what current things the person likes and values.
    I remember a discussion between two women who had abuse in their backgrounds. One said that she felt scared walking down empty streets; the other that this was when she felt safest (it was people she was worried about).

    My guess is that the path is one of realising I am flashing back more quickly and responding to it more quickly. And then one day the final piece slots into place. I wish I knew about what makes that final piece happen, I’m sorry I don’t.

    In my view the safest, most effective and ethical way to do this is to avoid re-traumatising as much as possible and work on meeting the need of the child inside, for safety or pleasure or play or expressing an emotion freely or whatever. This can be done in little bits that feel safe. In my view someone feeling overwhelmed by the feeling is just more of the same trauma rather than being helpful. So stop when you are comfortable.

    I hope this is helpful.

  • Chris Edgar 2012/09/21, 1:28 am

    Hi Evan, this resonates with what I’ve come to realize about myself — that self-development, at least for me, is not about moments of instantaneous, radical transformation, but instead about slowly coming to notice that I’m doing my life differently. I suspect that, even if I did have a “breakthrough,” I might need another person to point it out to me, because I’m usually too deeply immersed in being who I am to notice the change.
    Chris Edgar recently posted..New Song From “The Grate”: “Beneath The Grate”My Profile

  • Evan 2012/09/21, 8:00 am

    Yes, us noticing the change is interesting. I do think reviews or feedback from others can be helpful. Thanks for your comment. I hope the musical is coming along

  • Barbara 2012/09/22, 5:47 am

    Hi Evan

    It’s funny. Your example of traffic anger points me to the fact I probably don’t experience the initial emotion fully at the time. It seems to me it takes me awhile to get over small stuff like this. In other words, I can arrive wherever I was heading and can still feel tense or have a portion of my focus still on my upset. Maybe not necessarily the anger at the other person, but subsequent feelings. Things like, I could have been killed due to that driver, or I could’ve hurt someone else, or some other secondary focus. I also can see it’s a way that I move away from the anger and make what happened into something else. Likely in my case, to avoid the anger.

  • Evan 2012/09/22, 10:07 am

    Hi Barbara, I know what you mean. And with driving I guess you don’t want to get distracted and so do put the emotion on hold.

  • Dixie 2012/09/25, 10:59 am

    Hi Evan. I’ve been catching your comments on Cheerful Monk’s blog. This is my first visit, but certainly not my last. I’d like to add you to my reading list.

    The way you’ve put all of the information together makes it easy to follow. I’m more the ‘popcorn’ brain, but I got this! I find myself asking the Creator to give me awareness. I guess that’s somewhat interchangeable with flashbacks or triggers. Either way I find a needed calm to proceed with healing, changing, then action.

    I’ll be back again. Thank you for your diligence.
    Dixie recently posted..once upon a time… but only onceMy Profile

  • Evan 2012/09/25, 1:04 pm

    Hi Dixie, welcome. Any thoughts or comments you have are most welcome. Hope to hear from you again soon.

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