There’s a pattern I’ve noticed — in my life and in the lives of those brilliant creative storytellers I surround myself with. And it goes like this:

~ have a recurring hiccup in a particular area (this could be a behavior you’re trying to change, a relationship you’re trying to let go of, whatever)
~ realize there’s an issue beneath the surface that needs healing (there’s always some payoff for continuing to do a thing we really want not to do anymore)
~ start doing the work to get better (ugh; it’s work… but it’s so worth it)
~ feel like there’s been good progress, maybe even take those training wheels off (woo HOO! Better ME is coming into focus!!)
~ get hit with a ridiculous flare-up that makes you wonder if all that deep, inner work was for nothing because OMG it’s WORSE?!? WHYYYYYYYY?!? What is WRONG with me?!?

Yeah.

Turns out that last bit there is called an extinction burst.

As you do the work to heal, it’s like your coping mechanism, maladaptive response, really strong muscles for lower enoughness choices in life get a memo.

And that memo reads: “Your days are numbered, babe.”

Our old behaviors do their biggest, loudest thrashing about when those unhealthy parts of ourselves know they’re about to be out of a job.

Good!

When you know you’ve been doing the work, setting healthy boundaries, showing up for yourself in challenging ways… you needn’t doubt your progress. In fact, this sort of “relapse” is a really good sign.

When you find yourself needing more comfort than usual this week, know it’s all good.

Instead of seeing a flare-up as a backslide, or as an indicator that you’ve screwed things up and reverted to your old ways… label it an extinction burst. Know it means you’re closer to healthy than you were before. Take that tantrum and give it a hug. Thank it for kicking and screaming in a way that makes it soooooooo clear it’s on its way out.

Thank yourself for doing the work.

You’ve got this!

Much love,

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet


Enoughness is an inside job… and sometimes you need a guide to find your way there. Let Bonnie Gillespie get you started.

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12 Comments

  1. Avatar Tenaya Cleveland January 18, 2021 at 1:39 am

    Ughhhhhh SO dealing with this RIGHT NOW!! Ok, breathe Tenaya… Bonnie says it’s a good sign, and she knows stuff! 💕

    Reply
  2. Avatar April Sugarman January 18, 2021 at 3:02 am

    I love this! Instead of beating myself up for “backsliding” and then potentially getting caught back up in old ways of being all over again, I can reframe what’s happening in a more empowering and productive way. It takes the “one step backwards before taking two steps forward” concept and, by seeing it as an extinction burst, it transforms it into “a giant leap forward”. What a massive mindset shift!

    Reply
  3. Avatar Rachel January 18, 2021 at 5:20 am

    This is so resonant for me! I’ve been doing healing work since I was 20 (and I’m now 44) and it’s so easy to get discouraged and feel like I’m back at square one. Re-labeling these flare-ups as extinction bursts!

    Reply
  4. Avatar Tonya Kay January 18, 2021 at 7:56 am

    Dealing with a health challenge (cancer) during the pandemic. Confronted with some 2019 trauma and looking at how that shimmied into my subconscious. Looking at how that trauma reinforced a burried belief that were all alone in life and existence is meaningless. Worked worked worked to find the opposites and prove that unhealthy psychology wrong – it worked. People care. We aren’t alone. Meaning is meaningless anyway. I am already healed while I’m healing (of cancer).

    This Astro weather (I follow too) is bringing back illusions and fight on the same topics. But I don’t want to die early. I don’t care if life has meaning I’m not done. So this week looks like I’ll be using the extinction burst concept as a final “get out” for several levels of health. I don’t have time to waste on my own bullshit anymore. I want to be whole hearted and grateful for the days. I want to live now not next week when I’m “better”. Life happens now.

    Welcoming an extinction burst:)

    Reply
  5. Avatar Jennifer Sun Bell January 18, 2021 at 10:11 am

    So needed to read this today. Thank you Bonnie. Feel like I’m making so much progress but I keep feeling and hearing all these old, nagging thoughts. Just gotta keep moving forward!

    Reply
  6. Avatar Herman Johansen January 18, 2021 at 10:49 am

    Interesting timing…just read this article that hypothesized that is essentially what we are experiencing as a society.

    Reply
  7. Avatar Sam January 18, 2021 at 1:59 pm

    Interesting pattern observation.
    *strokes the proverbial beard*
    I totally see it in myself.

    Reply
  8. Avatar Ian Schuelke January 18, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Perfect timing! I wasn’t as productive this weekend, which results in me feeling a little buried today. Taking it in stride, and doing what I can today. Telling myself I can make mistakes in my calendar and I won’t get to everything on my list but I will get some of it done and that’s more than I did last year.

    Reply
  9. Avatar David Rosenblatt January 19, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    bonnie always coming through w those next level creative phrases. ‘extinction burst’ will really stick in my brain, thank you! i’ve been leveling up my fitness/strength and have an old hip catch situation. i can listen but not be bossed around by it.

    Reply
  10. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie January 19, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    Wow! Y’all rock. Thank you for this discussion.

    Tenaya — I’m so glad you’re able to get some breathing in around this issue. It’s such a frustrating one… ’til we understand it as the amazingly good sign that it is. Hang in there, babe.

    April — Yes to the reframe! You know I’m all about that. 🙂 Rather than seeing it as two steps forward, one step back, I actually see it as the arrow being pulled back against the bow before launching toward its target. 🙂 But yes, all of that! You’re so okay!!

    Rachel — I’ve realized for me personally, healing is a forever activity. *sigh* But there’s something really freeing about just knowing it’s forever the work. I’m glad you’re going to turn that discouragement into a reframe!

    Sweet, sweet Tonya Kay — I’m forever inspired by your willingness to do the work, and the beautiful payoff that comes from being unafraid (or afraid and doing the damn thing anyway) and getting to the bottom of it all. Yes, yes, yes on the alone and never alone of it all. To BE is to be bonded with others. You may already be aware of this story of the glass that is already broken but I’m sharing it anyway. It’s so good for me in exactly the same sort of work you’re doing. No, my healing journey didn’t include cancer specifically, but certainly that dark night of the soul and reckoning the reality that “I could be DONE” and then knowing, “Oh hell no. Nowhere close to done, y’all.” LOVE YOU!!

    Jennifer — Be grateful for those old ghosts visiting. They’re letting us know we’re so close to being done with them, and that’s huge. Sending love!

    Herman — Yes!!! I read that recently too. So so so good! Thank you for dropping the link. XO

    Sam — 😉 You’re awesome.

    Ian — Yes!! All the Baseline Criteria here. You’re getting to some of it. And that is enough.

    David — Isn’t it a great phrase?!? I am so happy to be able to tap into that different perspective rather than rushing into a fear spiral about any of those catches (physical hip, emotional hip, or any other kind of hip, right?!?).

    You’ve GOT this, everyone!! Love y’all!

    Reply
  11. Avatar Brooke January 21, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    I cried while reading the part about needing more comfort this week I’ve been trying to change some habits, and its just so hard. And sometimes you realize what you really need is a good cry to help keep you going! Maybe that’s how my extinction bursts come out of me.

    Reply
  12. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie January 24, 2021 at 12:37 pm

    Brooke — For sure! They take all shapes and sizes and just recognizing them as a sign of growth is such a lovely kindness to extend to ourselves (especially when we’re in need of more comfort).

    Reply

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