March 28, 2018
5. My Life Path
Written by Rachel Eddins
Life is a journey. Life is a book. Life is a drama. Life is a work of art. Life is a growth process. Life is a timeline. If your life is a journey you have carved a path and traveled through different times and places on your way to this present destination. You have not yet reached your final destination.
Throughout these journal exercises, you will describe the various aspects, stages, or chapters of your life.
Part 1: Where am I now in my life?
In this first exercise, you will simply describe where you are in this present period of your life journey. This is a broad, general statement of what is true for you as you reflect on this present time. This present time is more than “this present moment”. The present time may stretch back to certain life events and circumstances that mark off this period. This present period is your own subjective experience of what is true for you. For some this present period may stretch back only a short time while for others it may stretch back many years.
Instructions: Describe the outer events and circumstances that are occurring and also your inner experience in relationship to these events and circumstances. You need not go into much detail. You want to simply gain a general grasp, without judging, what is happening now in this period of your life and how you feel about what is happening. You want to consider both the positive and the negative aspects of your life.
A good phrase to open the door to this present period is to begin some sentences with the phrase, “This is a time when…” then complete the sentence with what is true for you.
Some useful questions to prompt yourself are:
- What is happening in my life now? What am I going through?
- What major events and circumstances seem to mark this current period? How far does this present period seem to go back? When did it seem to start?
- What recent changes have occurred in this present chapter of my life?
- Who are the people that seem to play an important role in this particular time and place of my life?
- What feelings and emotions am I having in this present period of my life?
Part 2: My Life Path: Where have I been in my life?
In the following exercise, you will look at the path you have taken in your life as a whole up to this present period. The purpose in this exercise is to help you reflect on the times of your life where you may be experiencing “unfinished” emotional business.
If you consider your life as a journey, it is obvious that you started your journey somewhere. That time was your birth, the time when you came into the world; and many things have happened since your birth up to this present period. You have gone through childhood, you have closed chapters, and you have lived out scenes. There were people who were important to you along the way in one way or another.
While some periods of your life are certainly closed, there are other events and experiences which occurred within these times that may be left open possibly because of emotional wounds that have occurred or because there is something more to be fulfilled.
This exercise will give you an opportunity to reflect back on “where you’ve been” in a broad sense and open up the possibility of identifying and releasing emotions that are carryovers from the past.
The periods or chapters of your life are generally marked off by significant events and last for a period of time. These periods can be long or short depending on your unique experience. This could be a period of attending a certain school, a period of living with a stepfather, a period of struggling with a certain illness, a period of living in another country, a period of being in a certain relationship or perhaps a period of living in a certain house. These periods are the “times” of your life and are your own subjective experience of how your life has been structured. If your life were a story, these periods would be the various “chapters” of your life.
1. List in sequential order from the time you were born a maximum of about 9 broad periods, chapters or times that stand out for you when you reflect on the course of your life on the My Life Path chart.
You are limiting yourself to about 9 so that you choose the most significant periods; the number can be fewer or a little more. For each period, mark the age range that you were during these periods and then describe the time or period with just a few brief one-sentence or one-phrase descriptions.
A good phrase to begin your sentence is, “The period of…” and then go ahead and describe the time. Begin your listing by starting with this present period and then working backwards. Also write the names of the people who were important to you, positively or negatively, who were present in your life during these times.
2. Next, choose a time or period that stands out for you as a significant or defining time in your life.
It is a time, perhaps, where something happened to you, where you struggled, or a time that appears to have a significant impact on your life. It could be a time where a major shift in your life took place or where you made a critical life choice.
It may have been a time when you came to view yourself in a new way either positively or negatively. Take that period of your life and go to the large “My Path” circle and write a description of that time in the space provided.
Then, take awhile to reflect on this period and allow yourself to freely recall and write down some of the specific events, places and people within that period. These are specific memories that occurred during this time.
Write down as many as come to mind without prejudging whether or not it was significant or important in your life. The fact that you recall an incident is enough in itself. And some of these memories may be pleasant as well as unpleasant.
3. After reflecting on this period of your life, answer the questions that follow to help you evaluate how this period of your life has contributed to the person you are today.
These questions address:
- How you have come to view yourself—your self-image.
- How you have come to view others—your world view.
- The pivotal people during this time period who have had a major impact on your life.
- The decisions and choices you made.
- Your internal dialogue.
- The emotions that are still “running” in your life.
Each period of your life may contain some defining moments that influenced your life in several ways in terms of the choices you made and beliefs you developed about your personal or professional life, your family, education, relationships, social life and spiritual fulfillment.
Repeat the exercise with other “times” or events of your life that seem to contain some emotional “charge”.
A Critical Event in my Life Path
During this period of my life, the event that appears to have the greatest impact on my life was the time when____________
The people who were pivotal in my life around this time were (Name the people) __________________________________
Some of the major emotions I felt during this event were (Name the feeling words) ________________________________
Specifically, the physical sensations that I felt when I felt those feelings were _____________________________________
(Describe these sensations you felt in various parts of your body. Or describe your physical posture or expression)
When I felt those feelings my inner conversation went something like __________________________________________
From that point on I came to see myself as ________________________________________________________________
And I came to see others as ___________________________________________________________________________
The mask I learned to wear was ____________________________________________
If I could name my mask in a few words it would be _________________________________________________________
One of the critical choices that I made in my life during this period was___________________________________________
My biggest fears in sharing my feelings are ________________________________________________________________
Part 3: Where have I been in specific areas of my life?
- Go back to the “troubling areas” in the first exercise (Where am I struggling?) and begin with the area that troubles you the most.
- As you did in the Part 2 above, reflect on the broad periods or times that mark off the course of events that have occurred – you can use a new copy of the Life Path chart – in this troubling area. You are limiting yourself to no more than 6 broad periods and the number may be fewer, perhaps only one or two. Write a sentence or two that describes each of these broad times and include the range of dates, or ages, that mark off these periods. As you did in Part 2 above, begin with the present, where things are now, and work backwards.
- Now close your eyes and reflect on the process or sequence of periods that have occurred in this area of your life. What events mark off these periods? Where and when did this process begin? Reflect on some of the major events that have occurred and how you felt during these times as you go back in time… A good opening to help you describe each period is to use the words, “The period of…” and complete it with your description.
- When you have completed your description of the broad periods, choose one period that stands out for you as the most difficult or troubling. Go to a new memories chart and, as you did in Part 2 above, allow yourself to recall specific memories and emotions and write them down as they come to you. You don’t need to worry about sequence or judge any incident as “significant” or not; just freely recall whatever memories bubble up into your awareness and write a sentence describing these specific events. A good phrase to help you describe these events is, “The time when.” and complete it with your description.
Go to the next journaling exercise: My Relationship Path
Click here to download the pdf version of the My Life Path Chart.
Click here to download the pdf version of the Memories Chart.
Click here to download the pdf version of the Critical Event in My Life Worksheet.
*Journaling exercises written by Cort Curtis, Ph.D, used with permission.
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