Embarking on a spiritual journey is a deeply transformative experience that will change your life, but that’s not to say it’s void of challenges. You will have setbacks, and there will be times when you feel like you’re regressing. If spirituality was a straight road, everyone would be enlightened by now.
The spiritual path is an individual journey. You’re going to get lost sometimes because you’re the one clearing the way with a machete. It’s normal to seek guidance, try different things, and explore different modalities. But at the end of the day, you’re on your own.
Self-discovery is a maze into the deeper parts of your consciousness. At times, the path may seem well-lit, which fills you with a sense of progress. But sooner or later, you’re going to hit a dead end and feel like you’re regressing as you recalibrate your path. But you’re not, because mentally you’re mapping out the maze.
So let’s really look at these feelings of regression along your spiritual path, to discover how you can leverage them for your continued growth.
What is spiritual regression?
Spiritual regression is a perceived decline in your spiritual development. Not to be mistaken with a spiritual awakening or dark night of the soul, spiritual regression occurs when you feel disconnected from your spiritual practices, inner self, or higher purpose. During these phases, you might experience doubt, confusion, or a sense of moving backward into old patterns and programs that you thought were gone for good.
While it may seem counterintuitive, moments of spiritual regression serve an important purpose along your journey. They often act as catalysts for deeper self-exploration. Just as a setback in life can lead to valuable lessons, periods of spiritual regression can offer insights for realignment with your authentic self.
It’s vital to distinguish spiritual regression from other forms of regression, such as emotional regression or behavioral regression. While emotional and behavioral regression can impact your overall well-being and functioning, spiritual regression pertains to the journey toward greater spiritual awareness.
- How to navigate a spiritual awakening: Stages, signs and insights
- How to get through a dark night of the soul
Leveraging spiritual regression for spiritual growth
When things are going well, life can seem cruisy. You’re on track, you know where you’re going, and you feel good about it. But your life situation can change in the blink of an eye, and this is when the universe really tests you to see if your spiritual growth is dependent on your life situation or not.
During the time I spent five years traveling the world, life was good. I was going through so many great experiences, meeting interesting people, and reaching whole new levels of well-being with my spiritual practices. But eventually, the time came to go back home.
Initially, everything was great. It was nice seeing my family and friends again, but that spark was short-lived, and it wasn’t long until I felt like I was back to square one. I had no money, no car, and I was living with my mum. Being a thirty-year-old man going back into an old past situation, it didn’t take long for my mind to follow suit.
That feeling of helplessness crept back in. I was getting triggered by things, I once again felt dependent. I felt like I was reverting back to old ways, but how? Was the last five years all for nothing? I thought there was no going back as I had made so much progress in every dimension of my life. But then I saw that the universe was testing me.
It’s easy to be zen when you’re in a situation that cultivates it. But the real challenge comes when you’re thrown into a difficult situation, and actually need to apply your wisdom. With that understanding, it didn’t take me long to recognize those feelings and the patterns I was falling back into. With awareness, this changed the outcome of the situation.
I made a decision to bring consciousness to every setback. To use those challenges as opportunities to excel in my growth. With a potent cocktail of awareness, desire, and dedication, your spiritual regression can be a trampoline for your spiritual growth, if you decide to leverage it, and use it as an opportunity to do the hard work.
What to expect during a spiritual regression
Spiritual growth is a journey with peaks and valleys. You can rest on a peak for a while, but if you’re looking to move forward, you’ll need to traverse the landscape which will have its challenges.
It’s not uncommon to have moments when it seems like you’re taking steps backward rather than forward. These feelings of regression can be disheartening as they cast shadows on the progress you’ve made, but they’re temporary, as long as you work through it.
It’s essential to recognize that these feelings of regression are not signs of failure or stagnation. Instead, they indicate a natural phase of growth. Just as a plant may appear dormant before sprouting new leaves, your spiritual journey may temporarily slow down to allow for deeper rooting and stabilization. Below are some common signs of spiritual regression.
Going back into old patterns
The most common symptom of regression is falling back into old patterns. Essentially, you start experiencing attitudes, behaviors, and mentalities that you thought you had overcome for good. This could take the form of playing the victim again after you’ve worked so hard to empower yourself, or having an emotional outburst when you thought you healed the underlying cause.
Experiencing doubt and uncertainty
A spiritual regression can be disheartening, as you feel that all the progress you worked so hard for was for nothing. Because of that, self-doubt can creep in as you question the authenticity of your spiritual experiences. You may feel uncertain about the path you’ve chosen, or question its validity.
Feeling lost and questioning your beliefs
You might experience a sense of being lost during your spiritual regression. This feeling comes from a disconnection from your spiritual body. Your practices may slip out the window, and you find yourself going back into old habits. Due to these feelings, it’s natural to feel a little disillusioned, as you’re not sure where you stand anymore. Doubts about your spiritual beliefs may arise.
You might feel discouraged by the obstacles presented along your spiritual journey. Suddenly you feel as if you have made no progress (or very little), and this can lead to a lack of motivation, or feeling like you want to give up. During spiritual regression, it can be difficult to maintain the same level of enthusiasm or commitment that you had before.
Comparisons and self-criticism
During a spiritual regression, you might start comparing your progress to other people. Everyone else seems to have it worked out (believe me, they don’t) which can lead to feelings of inadequacy. These feelings of inadequacy can create a negative spiral where you self-criticize and think there’s something wrong with you. You believe you should be further along or more advanced.
Understanding the spiritual growth cycle
In the pursuit of spiritual growth, you need to recognize that your journey is not a linear progression. Just as nature undergoes cycles of change, your spiritual development has different phases, each with its unique challenges and opportunities.
You will have highs where you reach new levels of your spiritual development, and then you will cycle back down into a growth phase. The growth phases can be challenging, but they are necessary because that’s where many important lessons and insights are discovered.
Learning from a growth phase (where the hard work is done), allows you to expand even further along your spiritual development. Moving through a growth cycle leads to a deeper sense of self, a stronger alignment with your purpose, and more faith than you had before. Below are some phases of spiritual development.
Expansion and Clarity
In the initial phases of your journey, you may experience a sense of expansion. Everything feels fresh, you’re learning new things and gaining wisdom (usually the theoretical component) quickly. Your spiritual path appears well-illuminated. During this time you’re eager to learn, grow, and embrace new experiences. Throughout your spiritual journey, you will come back to moments of clarity, and feel motivated to continue along your path, because it’s fulfilling.
Plateaus and Challenges
After the initial enthusiasm, you may encounter challenges that are either triggered by real-life events, or come on spontaneously. Progress slows down as you grapple with the challenges presented (which act as the practical component of spiritual wisdom). Throughout your journey, you will plateau here and there, and this is where feelings of regression often surface.
These moments are not indicators of failure but rather invitations for growth. Spiritual growth is not a one-time event but a series of cycles. You may revisit similar challenges multiple times, each time from a higher level of awareness (look at spiritual growth as an upward spiral). By understanding that regression is a natural part of your growth journey, you can approach it with greater acceptance.
Integration and Transformation
As you persist through challenges and plateaus, you enter a phase of integration and transformation. Insights gained during challenging times become part of your wisdom. Your understanding deepens, and you experience profound transformation. This period occurs after you do the inner work during a spiritual regression, and tweak your path moving forward, and often leads back to the initial feelings of expansion and clarity.
Reconnecting with the higher self: Actionable steps to overcome spiritual regression
When you feel like you’re regressing, there are some important practices that you don’t want to skip. These practices will help you shorten the amount of time that you feel stuck, and extract the most wisdom possible from them. Ultimately, follow the practices below to navigate a spiritual regression with more ease.
Address the feeling
The first step is to acknowledge the feelings of regression. Awareness is crucial here because if you don’t exercise it, you’re not going to prevent yourself from slipping into old patterns. Understand that regression is a natural phase in your journey, and that it is temporary as long as you do the work.
Allow yourself to express the emotions associated with regression. This could involve journaling, talking to a trusted friend, or engaging in creative outlets like art or music.
Spend a lot of time reflecting
Engage in deep self-reflection to identify the attitudes, actions, and behaviors that might contribute to your feelings of regression. Are there patterns of thought or behavior that need adjustment? Was there something that triggered these feelings of regression? If so, why?
Incorporate meditation and mindfulness practices into your daily routine. These techniques can help you stay present, focus on the hand at task, and cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself. Below are some articles to help you start those practices.
- Practical mindfulness exercises for beginners: Cultivating presence and inner stillness
- How to get deeper in your meditation practice
It’s important not to be too hard on yourself. As a spiritual regression is a natural part of the process, acknowledge that there’s nothing you can do about it. During these times, people tend to berate themselves. Make sure you don’t do this because it’s only going to exacerbate these painful feelings. So show yourself kindness and love, and the whole process is going to be much more smooth.
Refine your intentions
Use this time as an opportunity to reevaluate your values and refine your intentions. Ask yourself, are your intentions aligned with your true desires and purpose? Adjust them as needed to ensure they resonate with who you truly are, and what you’re looking for in life. Avoid setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Remember that spiritual growth is a life-long journey with ups and downs.
Maintain consistency in your spiritual practices, even during moments of regression. The discipline of regular practice can provide stability, and give you something to work towards, even when you’re feeling discouraged. Be willing to adapt your practices as needed, but make sure you keep doing them. Experiment with new approaches and techniques that might better serve your current stage of growth.
Build your faith
You may feel disillusioned during a spiritual regression, but you can use it to actually strengthen your faith. It’s a good idea to connect with a supportive spiritual community or engage in activities that reinforce your faith. Seek inspiration from spiritual texts, teachings, or role models who have overcome their own moments of regression. Their stories can provide motivation and guidance. Keep on the track, and you will get through to the other side in no time.