If It Feels Like You're Walking in Circles, It's Because You Are

Why Déjà Vu is Good For You / CACtackk.06

Who among us hasn't had a moment of déjà vu — that Ground-Hog-Day feeling of doing something we've already done before. A place. A conversation. A relationship. A task.

And for some reason, it seems these déjà vu moments often come wrapped in negative undertones. It’s never déjà vu joy; but rather déjà vu dread (..uh oh, I'm in for it again) or déjà vu incompetence (...why am I back here again?). It's like walking in circles and feeling like we’re getting nowhere. Well, guess what — despite conventional wisdom about a straight line being the shortest distance between two points; the fact is, sometimes "walking in circles" is an inevitable & invaluable part of the path forward.

In fact, the concept of a “spiral ascent” occurs throughout history in everything from literature to architecture. Take the above image of the Mosque of Samarra (Iraq, 9th century) in which the spiral ascent of a “holy mountain” is “symbolic of the expansion and evolution of consciousness and the accompanying flame of wisdom.”

I first encountered my own version of this visual reference when an early mentor told me that if I felt like I was back in the same spot again, it just meant I had more to learn there. He then drew a simple triangular version of a mountain with an arrow-tipped line circling around it in an upward direction.

“Everything in life looks like this Christopher,” he said. Every job, every journey, every relationship, every experience. You start at the bottom and make your way up — gaining skill, confidence, self-awareness, respect, reputation, currency, appreciation and patience as you go. And much like in the children’s game Chutes and Ladders, you’ll also encounter short-cuts upward and unexpected detours downward.

The ordeals we experience in our personal, professional and spiritual mountain climbing are all part of the way we grow as human beings. And those feelings of déjà vu — well, rather than being gloomy harbingers of some personal shortcoming, they’re actually just the universe’s way of reminding us we’re not done learning yet.

Remember, real life is not a one-dimensional, linear, straight-line experience.

We are all constantly moving in many directions — simultaneously experiencing our surroundings using multiple senses, and processing all of it at multiple levels of consciousness. More often than not, progress is the exact opposite of a straight line. It’s more likely a spinning, swirling, nearly out-of-control, drunken march forward. Round and round we turn, on a planet that goes round and round itself, in a broader natural world that goes round and round as well.

So if that déjà vu feeling rears its head, just step back, take a deep breath, stretch out your arms like Maria von Trapp, and look up at the heavens as you spin round and round and round with the rest of us. It may just be the best part of the ride.