Positivity Quest: The Spirals in Relating

“Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

A friend of mine gave me this quote framed more than twenty years ago when I was moving away to a new life. It has been hanging in my home ever since and has come to be one of the truths that I come back to over and over about learning to relate. As soon as we think we have a relationship figured out, we fall into the easy pattern of assuming we know someone. Then something happens that surprises us that wakes us up again to the truth that when it comes to the work of relationships, life is a spiral.

I have come to know this as a constant in raising my children. Whether it is a phase that is driving us all crazy or my motherly confidence of being able to predict their behaviors, I have learned over the years that this too shall pass, and remarkably also come back around. Nowhere is the spiral of development more evident than in witnessing the process of growing up.

Goethe wrote, “Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.” This is the truth about our most rewarding and challenging relationships. We learn in small and digestible doses the intricacies and complexities of how to approach, leave space and communicate about the issues that define our relationships. Each time they come around, we are different and so our ability to work with them is different and a little more evolved with each turn of the wheel.

To the untrained eye or the impatient heart, this can feel like going out of the way, falling off track or getting mired in the past. But it is the process of going through over and over that actually moves us upward, closer to our best and highest selves. It is tedious work and time consuming, but it is the only route to new beginnings, to finding the place where another circle can be drawn.

Today I had this lovely spiral experience with our new CEO. It caught me off guard, because this was the first time we had made it around to the new beginning and parts of the route were so challenging as to making us both wonder if the dissolution was the truth of it. His skill set, experience and communication styles that are so important for the balanced growth the company needs now, can either be perceived as opposite or complementary to my own, depending on our capacity and willingness to stretch, accommodate and understand. Finding our way to back to partnership was a great lesson in how to see the next circle being drawn.


Emma S.
Emma S4 years ago

Thank you, Wendy. I've always seen life as a spiral - a circle would feel like a treadmill, but a spiral suggests something cyclical and flowing, but also progressive, aspirational.

Nautilus. That's the name of that shell. (I had to look it up because I'd forgotten, and I was getting so annoyed about it that I couldn't concentrate on your words.)

Jewels S.
Jewels S7 years ago

Very timely. Sometimes these articles seem to speak to me. I used to try and stay in the same old spiral but have since learned to take leaps sometimes and there are beautiful new facets of life that emerge and I realize I was in that former spiral longer than necessary but I am still learning to jump. So I just turn around and look forward again and am happy that I have let go of the fear I had and learned to leap!

Marvela P.
Marvela P7 years ago

Wendy, this is lovely! Thank you! I find that as I get older, I can manage those ups and downs a lot better than I did when I was young. My motto used to be, "Life is intense!" It still is, but my ability to handle it has improved over the years. I have a stronger foundation, flexibility, and faith to keep me going on those strange twists and turns that life presents to us and in our relationships. Love the metaphor of the spiral! It speaks to archetypes we can all recognize.

Isabelle J.
Isabelle J.7 years ago

Nowhere is the spiral of development more evident than in witnessing the process of growing up.

Mary L.
Mary L7 years ago

Thank you

Thomas N.
Thomas N.7 years ago

I'll ride the spiral to the end, takes me where I've never been

Jane H.
Jane H7 years ago

it seems that life lessons never end and surprises (bam) come often.

Barb F.
Barb F7 years ago


Liz Edwards
Joan Edwards7 years ago

I don't find it tedious work to keep going on the path of life. There are so many little bumps and curves that I need to be aware of, and appreciate their value. Steadily learning. How can that be tedious?
Nobody has the right to be in my brain just as I have no right to be in someone else's brain. In dire situations even I don't know how I would react or respond.
Who was it who said " When I'm on a path and come to a 'fork in the road' I take it"?

irene fernandez
irene Fernandez7 years ago

I liked this alot! it's like "when one door closes another one (or maybe a window) opens