Déjà vu All Over Again?

Though seasons are pretty consistent and recognizable when they cycle back through, there is one thing that is different -- sometimes dramatically different: us.
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The autumn season is just beginning, and change is in the air. As I travel through the country, I see leaves turning, daylight getting shorter, and the air becoming noticeably cooler. These seasonal signs aren't as obvious in my home state, Hawaii. Traditionally, the Hawaiians only recognized two seasons: Kau, summer or the "fruitful" season, and Hoo-Ilo, winter or the "cooler" season. (But even with our two seasons, the variation in temperature and daylight is hardly noticeable. I know -- don't hate me!) But even in Hawaii, kids are back in school, football season has started, and we're beginning that long march toward "the holidays." So it's a brand new season and everything feels different.

Or does it?

We experienced autumn last year, didn't we? And the year before that and the year before that? This year might vary slightly from years before, but isn't it just the same old same old coming around again?

Certain challenges that pop up in our lives over and over often feel like those seasons. They seem to leave us for a while then show back up again like clockwork. Maybe we've even worked to make them disappear. We entered therapy or attended workshops or participated in programs. We enhanced our prosperity consciousness. We healed old relationship wounds. We toned up our bodies and spruced up our eating habits. We've entered a brand new stage of our lives and turned the corner!

But, uh-oh. Right around that corner seems to be that same old issue again. Our new business starts losing money -- again. We run into communication issues with our new partner -- again. Our bodies start falling apart and we fall off the wagon on our new eating plan -- again. What's up with that?

"This again?" It's really discouraging, and I think our initial tendency is to think that "we didn't do it right" when tackling that problem the first time. We beat ourselves up and try to figure out what we did wrong or didn't do correctly. Was that technique or program or therapist we used flawed? Are we lacking in character or depth or intelligence? If we had really done the work properly on that issue, wouldn't it just disappear, never to cross our paths again?

Maybe. It's true that sometimes an issue reappears because we haven't dealt with it thoroughly the first time. It shows up to give us another chance. We need to regroup, go back and work on it again, maybe using different tools. There may be a piece that we've not yet identified that's holding us back from fully releasing what we need to release. But there's another possibility.

Let's talk about the seasons again. Though seasons are pretty consistent and recognizable when they cycle back through, there is one thing that is different -- sometimes dramatically different: us. Who we are and our perspective. What we know and how we operate. I'm not the 6-year-old who ran in the summer surf. You're not the 16-year-old who just learned how to drive in the winter snow. We're not the kids who were terrified of spring thunder, who loved to jump in fall leaves, who wobbled on ice skates. We've changed -- but the seasons didn't. Similarly, we can be totally different people facing what seems to be a "déjà vu all over again" challenge.

In this case, we're actually cycling through these issues from a totally different perspective. It's as if your life and growth is on a spiral. Even though you are moving upward and onward, the spiral circles you back around so you see that same old challenge. It might look eerily similar to the last time you saw it. The key is to remember that though the issue may look very much the same, you are not. You have new tools, new perspective, new wisdom to bring to the situation.

So though your new business seems to be bleeding cash just like the old one, you now have new resources to tap, and can stay calm and creative in finding better solutions. Your new spouse or partner may say something that hits a painful spot, but you now know how to take a deep breath and respond rather than react. You may have slipped up in your health routine, but now you have built a better physical foundation and have the confidence to begin again.

If you stop and notice that you've run into these old challenges from a new, improved position on your "spiral," you'll be able to experience how much more empowered and effective you are this time around. Our progress is not measured by having no challenges in life, but how well we navigate the ones that come to us.

At this point in the discussion, my students often complain. "Why does it have to be the same old challenge? Can't I move on to something new?"

There is an old saying -- I believe it's from the Jewish tradition -- that says, "If you really looked into the bags full of troubles that others carry, you would always end up choosing your own all over again."

Here's to the seasons that never change -- and to us who do!


-- Dr. Matt

Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. Dr. Matt has also immersed himself in Huna, the ancient practices of the Hawaiian islands of forgiveness and meditation for mental health and well-being, and he carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna. In his most recent book, Find Your Purpose, Master Your Path, Dr. Matt melds the ancient wisdom of Huna with modern psychology to assist us in leading conscious, purpose-driven lives. He contributes regularly to The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. For more information and to receive his NLP Fast-Track Video eCourse for free, visit

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