When I started my healing and personal development journey, I observed that most people who got very far along that path ended up being pulled into it as a career or lifestyle. Personal development seemed like an eternal hamster wheel, and it sounded exhausting. And in the healing world, there seems a subtle but pervasive belief that healing is never really “finished”; like AA you are perpetually in recovery from trauma or woundings.
Personally, I like projects that have finite boundaries, so I chose a goal that I could put a metric to: Fix my broken shit, make my life something I want to live and stay present to, and then go live it. And that’s what I did and am now doing.
(Obviously I still lived up to my own observation and ended up working in the field, but it really is a good fit for my actual gifts and preoccupations!)
From my perspective, healing and growth or development are separate processes, and the question as to whether each process has an end point is different.
Does healing work ever finish?
Yes. Healing work is undertaken to correct developmental arrests and/or internal fractures.
You can be cut off from your body, your emotions, your passions, your past, or part(s) of your psyche. For example you might be cut off from your Fight response and unable to stand up for yourself against aggression or even assert what you want, or you might be cut off from your own vulnerability and unable to offer empathy to someone else. Perhaps you are suppressing your creative self, or denying the part of you that is screaming for a bit of order in a chaotic lifestyle. When you can access all parts of yourself freely and at will, and choose to honor all your various sides and aspects instead of indulging some at the expense of others, this sense of fragmentation and fighting against yourself dissipates. You feel whole and centered and at home within yourself. You become integrated into a complete person instead of like a collection of ill-fitting parts.
If your full physical, emotional, psychological, and relational needs were not met in childhood, you learned a coping mechanism or a compensating strategy to survive that situation. A plurality if not an out-and-out majority of adults in modern Western cultures are still living out some kind of survival strategy or another. Setting down the coping mechanisms and maturing out of any arrested developmental stages or processes are tasks with end points. Becoming the age you are and living from a deliberate, considered perspective is a goal that reaches completion.
Healing these internal schisms and developmental arrests can take years and require a number of passes around the spiral path of introspection. Often people who are far enough along to feel like they have wisdom to share will write guidebooks and how-to’s for the process they used. The fact that they are only 90% healed creates in the literature of healing a bias toward the narrative that healing is ongoing and process-oriented rather than finite. For some people, perhaps, full healing cannot be achieved with the time and psychological capacity they have left to them, but that is certainly not the case for everyone.
Healing has an end point.
Does personal growth or personal development have an end point?
No…because we are constantly changing in response to our experiences, and our developmental potential is constantly growing as we continue to age and experience more of life, whether that is truly seeing different parts of it or simply seeing more of it. There is no end point to our growth and development, because our state of being is not static. Even if we can achieve a state of having maximized our potential or tapped all possibilities for growth it will be for that moment, in that context, and it will not last.
Life is change.
Every experience we have is the death of the self who had not experienced it and the birth of the self who has.
So no, there is no end point to personal growth. You can get bored with the process of directing it, and you can definitely stop pushing yourself to try to expand beyond the normal rate of change that is a byproduct of fully living your life, but you won’t ever actually stop changing. Thus you won’t ever actually stop growing and developing.