Posts Tagged With: ascending coil

Day 236: Recovering

I was talking to somebody last week about the concept of recovery, which is defined in many different ways, including these (thanks to my old friend, Google):


1.  a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
“signs of recovery in the housing market”
synonyms: recuperation, convalescence
antonyms: relapse, deterioration
2. the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.
“a team of salvage experts to ensure the recovery of family possessions”
synonyms: retrieval, regaining, repossession, getting back, reclamation, recouping, redemption, recuperation

Something else that showed up, in my Googling of “recovery”:

SAMHSA announces a working definition of “recovery” from mental disorders and substance use disorders.

Here’s a quote from that 2011 on-line article, from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

A new working definition of recovery from mental disorders and substance use disorders is being announced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The definition is the product of a year-long effort by SAMHSA and a wide range of partners in the behavioral health care community and other fields to develop a working definition of recovery that captures the essential, common experiences of those recovering from mental disorders and substance use disorders, along with major guiding principles that support the recovery definition.

The new working definition of Recovery from Mental Disorders and Substance Use Disorders is as follows:

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

So where was I, before googling “recovery”?

Oh, yes, the conversation I had at work last week. During that same conversation, we also talked about the Ascending Coil. The Ascending Coil — which I first mentioned on Day 6 here —  is an often useful way to look at the ways we humans learn and grow. That is, we tend to go over similar territory and lessons, like this:


rather than learning in a linear,  building-perfectly-on-what-we-already-know way, like this (which some of us might expect from ourselves):



If those two images, above, look familiar, that might be because (1) the first one is a Slinky, which some of you are familiar with, and  (2) I’ve already shown these same images in another post, here.

So this is what I wanted to say, today:

When I was having this conversation, last week,  about the process of recovery and the Ascending Coil, I saw something differently.

I saw the word recovering* like this:


Re-covering similar ground,  as we grow.

Re-covering similar problems, sometimes with a sense of despair: “Will this ever end? Will I ever learn? Will things ever work out for me?”

Re-covering similar lessons, learning something new each time (even if it feels like we’re not learning well — or quickly — enough).

Sometimes, as we re-cover that ground, it might seem like it’s the “same old same old”….  like there’s “nothing new under the sun”**.

This is what I saw under the sun, yesterday, in a place I’ve been many, many times before:



It’s all about recovering, isn’t it?

Thanks to SAMSHA, slinkies, sunsets, and to you, too, for reading today.


* I could have seen the word “recovery” like this: “re-covery”, but since “covery” is not a word, that would have been the end of that.

** I’ve been thinking a lot about “clichés” this year. For more about that, see here.

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Day 158: The Ascending Coil (revisited)

The first week I blogged here, back in January, I shared the introduction of a book I’m working on, which described a wonderful, useful way to look at your healing journey through life.

The Ascending Coil

I can use the word “wonderful” with all due modesty, because it’s not my idea.  Carl Jung came up with this soulful and true metaphor, which matches so many people’s experience of learning and growth.

This is what Jung said: While we may expect ourselves to learn and proceed through life in a linear fashion, like this:


The human experience is more like this:



(And  yes, that is  a picture of a Slinky!!) (Which I’m thrilled to have found this morning on-line, especially since several people I work with have bought Slinkies,  to remind themselves of this concept.)

Look at that beautiful Slinky.  THAT is how we grow. We move around in circles, learning similar lessons over and over again.

Of couse, that kind of path can feel discouraging at times … like we’re moving backwards. Like we’re relearning things we should  know already.

But here’s the good news. We’re always moving up.  Each time we go around, we have new wisdom and experience. Even when we move back around into periods of pain, confusion, or hopelessness, we will turn another corner and continue to move forward.

We can’t fall back. We can’t unlearn.  It’s impossible.

It make take us several go-rounds to learn something “well enough” to change, but we’re always building, in some way, on what we’ve experienced.

Why did I want to revisit this ascending coil, this morning?

Because when I woke up this morning, facing some difficult challenges — some new opportunities that scare me, I had this thought, which helped tremendously:

Today, I am more equipped than I’ve ever been in my life, to tackle what’s ahead of me.  Because, no matter what I’m doing, I’m further along, on this mortal coil.

Thanks for reading, wherever you are, today.


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Day 6: The Ascending Coil

Note: Today’s blog entry is an adaptation of the intro from one of the books I’m working on. Also, it’s the first time I’ve tried to use an illustration in a post!

In my work as an individual and group therapist, there’s an image I like to use when someone is discouraged about a personal setback. A client might say, “I thought I was making progress, but now I’m back to square one.” Or “I was feeling so much better, and then I started feeling bad again. What’s wrong with me?” Or “I’ve already learned this! Why do I keep making the same mistakes?”

When I hear people say these things, I often draw a spiral or coil that looks something like this:

(Honestly, what I draw might be sloppier than that, but it does a better job implying onward and upward movement.  But, hey!  the above is the best  coil  I’ve been able to find online, so far.)

I tell people this image is based on the work of Carl Jung, who described the ascending coil as the typical way that people grow, learn, and develop through life. Jung said that people keep going over similar territory, encountering similar issues along their way. And those circles can feel like we’re stuck in a pattern, going through the same damn thing over and over again.

However, notice that every time we circle around, we’re also in a different place. Jung said that the same time we’re going around, we’re also simultaneously moving up and ahead. Each time we come around, we’re further along, with experiences and knowledge we didn’t have before. Therefore,  we can never go over the same exact territory the same way. It’s impossible. We simply cannot  fall back to square one (or square anything). We may be re-visiting similar territory, but we’re different,  and we’re doing it differently every time.

I’ve drawn and shown this ascending coil  to many people over the years. When I talk to people about it for the first time, I often see reactions that look similar to how I felt when it was first shown to me. When I first saw and thoughts about that coil,  I felt recognition. I felt relief. I realized that I was not alone in struggling with (and often judging) my progress through life.  And, best of all,  I felt a reassuring acceptance about where I’d been, where I was, and where I might be going.

Each of us has our own ascending mortal coil, our own path of learning and growth.  For most of us, the  early, crucial go-rounds included some difficult passages.  Perhaps we encountered some unexpected calamities, too early. Perhaps we didn’t get some things we really needed. Perhaps we lost track of our basic worthiness.  Not surprisingly, those early go-rounds tend to influence and shape what territories and lessons we re-encounter  as we move upward.

For me, those early, formative passages included my being born with an unusual heart, which resulted in my being hospitalized a lot when I was a kid, and my needing a cardiac pacemaker when both I and pacemaker technology were quite young.  (Bragging point: I am the longest surviving person with a pacemaker, in the world.) (Yes, I am.)*

A lot of those early hospital experiences have lingered for me in challenging ways — making hospitals places I’ve tended to avoid, whenever I’ve had that choice. Yet, I have recently chosen to return to the hospital in a different way:  as a treater, not a patient, and doing work I love.   Do those early memories add fearful echoes to my current experience? Of course they do.  But I’m getting to do things differently this time around, and it feels great (if exhaustingly scary at times).

Whatever your formative passages were, wherever you are in your life right now,  I assume you also have re-encountered certain important issues in your life — learning and re-learning  lessons as you move up your own ascending coil of Life.

These issues may cause pain, they may create self-judgment, they may be an incredible pain in the ass, but they are undeniable.  They’re important. They’re difficult lessons to swallow or learn. Otherwise, we wouldn’t keep bumping, slamming, and stumbling into them.

I know it always helps me  to imagine moving up, always up, as I wend my way around my progress through life — my personal ascending coil. It helps to visualize myself on that path, moving slowly but surely, especially when I feel lost, confused, stymied, disappointed, angry, fearful, and judgmental of myself and others.

I hope it can be a helpful image for you, dear reader, too.

© 2013 Ann Koplow

* Actually, no, I’m not, which I found out in 2014. See here for more about that.

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