Staying on the Old Road, Part 1

If you should not leave the old road for a new one, does that mean you need to spend years in therapy rehashing your past? And do we really spend the first half of our lives becoming dysfunctional? What do I mean when I use the word “dysfunctional” anyway?

The three blog posts on not leaving the old road for a new one elicited comments and questions, some on the blog, others on my Facebook page (to which I copy my blogs), and still others in e-mails and conversations. One reader asked if “dysfunctional” was the correct word to use. She suggested that you live your life and realize at some point that it isn’t working quite the way you planned. You may even feel as if your life is falling apart. You build a road with the wrong materials, keep adding to it with the wrong materials, and even go back and repair potholes with the wrong materials.

Are “the wrong materials” the equivalent of “dysfunctional”? Well, I believe we build the road with the materials we have on hand. And those materials on hand include everything that has gone into making us who we are. We develop strategies to help us navigate our way through life. And some of those strategies become barriers between the persona we create for ourselves and our authentic selves. And that, in my vernacular, is dysfunctional.

If our future becomes our past unless we do something other than keep repeating it, why aren’t a few years in therapy a good idea? They may be for you. My attitude is this: whatever works. But my preferences are clear, based on how I’ve lived my own life. I’m educated in the field of psychology. I have respect for it. I even worked as a therapist for a while during and after graduate school. But I found my way to shamanism and stayed there because I found it a more useful approach . . . for me.

The work of becoming a shaman is very much about working your way back to your authentic self by staying on the road you arrived at to “here” rather than simply leaving the old road for a new one. It is the work of courageously facing yourself as you are, accepting it, healing whatever needs to be healed within you, and making a choice to live a life of integrity—and by “integrity” I mean the kind of completeness you achieve with harmony of mind, body, spirit, and emotions. As it happens, that kind of harmony seems to support “integrity” as most people think of it—a fundamental incorruptibleness.

We so effectively keep ourselves wrapped in the comfortable cloak of our persona that it takes serious excavation to face ourselves as we are. And if you go looking for something buried somewhere other than where you buried it, what do you suppose your chances of finding it are? Exactly. So you stay on the old road.

I’m not going to delve into shamanic practices like recapitulation here. At least, not yet. It’s helpful, I think, to take a look at how we construct a road that takes us away from our authentic selves in the first place. And to do that, I’m going to borrow a concept from Buddhism as I, a non-Buddhist, have come to understand it: the cocoon.

To be continued.

Copyright 2013 by Melanie Mulhall

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8 Responses to “Staying on the Old Road, Part 1”

  1. Melanie Mulhall Says:

    From Margaret Pevec:

    I really like your definition of a functional human: “…the kind of completeness you achieve with harmony of mind, body, spirit, and emotions. As it happens, that kind of harmony seems to support “integrity” as most people think of it—a fundamental incorruptibleness.” It defines my path, which wasn’t shamanism, but rather a patchwork of other “methods” that I felt intuitively would help me uncover the self that got buried as a child among a dysfunctional family and a lot of grief. “Facing myself as I am” is ever-unfolding, and will probably take the rest of my life. It’s really hard work. I’m glad you don’t make it sound easy, and I look forward to reading more.


  2. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    The path of integrity is a good one. And facing ourselves as we are is an ever-unfolding process for all of us.

    It’s good to have you as a fellow traveler.



  3. kosmicegg Says:

    What looks like harmony from the outside may,in fact, be conflict hidden. What looks like struggle from the outside may, in fact, be harmony. 🙂


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      True. The “outside” version of harmony may not actually be very harmonious, from an energetic perspective. And even when we do struggle, that struggle may be an important step towards harmony.

      Thanks for your comment.



  4. gaildstorey Says:

    This post struck a chord with me, Melanie. It reminds me of the question: do I want to live a better version of the illusory dream, or do I want to live the essential truth? Thank you for your inspiration.


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      What a great question for all of us to ask ourselves from time to time. And, of course, some truths are universal; others are those relating to what is authentic for us. I hope I have your permission to use your question.

      Thanks for your support, as always.



  5. gaildstorey Says:

    Melanie, you’re so right, and my question is a paraphrase of a teaching from Adyashanti. Kind of the nondual awareness version of not rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. ;-D


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      That’s a good way to put it. In fact, I use this same approach (oddly enough) with potential editing clients. Sometimes they just want a mechanical edit and want me to give an estimate. I insist on looking at the entire manuscript. Then I assess whether it is actually ready to be edited. If I don’t believe it is, I’ll give them feedback and/or offer to do some writing coaching, but I won’t edit it. I know that many editors would, but I don’t want to rearrange weeds in a vase. It doesn’t serve them, me, or the book to do that.

      I should have guessed that Adyashanti would have come up with something like this.



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