Why it’s Time to Dump that Young Lady from Your Back!


This is a guest post from Stephen Farah

I am delighted and truly honoured to be hosting Stephen’s first ever guest post.

I once heard a line in the movie A House of Games (1987) which I have never forgotten:

“When you have done something unforgivable, I will tell you exactly what to do. You must forgive yourself.”

This makes sense because to live in blame, be it blame of others or ourselves is just not a way to live. At least not if we want to live a meaningful and fulfilled life.

We also learn that in order to live our lives forward rather than backwards, we need to assimilate everything that has ever happened to us. Be it good or bad.

What do we mean by Assimilation?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines assimilation as:

1.    Take in and understand information.
2.    Absorb people or ideas into a wider society or culture.
3.    Absorb or digest food or nutrients.

This gives us a good starting point in understanding assimilation. However in the sense we use the term here, let’s broaden that definition slightly:

Take in, understand, digest, utilise, collate and make part of oneself, information, experiences, tool/s, technology, education, culture etc.  Such that these things no longer remain outside and alien to yourself. They are no longer at arms distance.

Absorb and digest food, nutrients yes, but also medicine, ideas, teaching, toxicity, experiences good and bad, happenings, dreams, intuitions, successes and failures.

I even speculate that the whole of psychology and the myriad of New Age therapies all concern themselves with just one single issue – a  lack of assimilation.

Whether this is called hysteria, neurosis, stress, psychosis, a lack of adaptation, it all boils down to a very simple idea:-

The person suffering from the condition has failed to assimilate something.

The goal of the therapy is often to allow that person to assimilate the unassimilated content.

When you or I have failed to assimilate something it stands outside us, frequently over and against us. It is an experience for example which detracts from our ability to be present, to be happy, and to function optimally.

The following short story illustrates this idea quite well:

Two Zen Monks and a Young Lady

As the two Zen Monks walked along a road they came across a young woman wanting to cross a river, but afraid to, for fear of being washed away.

One of the monks lifted the young lady into his arms and carried her over.

As they walked back to their monastery the other monk was silent but clearly distressed. Eventually unable to contain himself any longer he blurted out,

“How could you lay hands on a woman? Have you forgotten your vows of chastity?”

To which the first monk replied,

“Why are you still carrying that young lady? I put her down hours ago?”

What is the young lady you are still carrying on your back?

What is it in your life that you have not assimilated, or not yet come to terms with? And how would your life change of you were assimilate it?

What heights of being are you capable of reaching were you simply to put the young lady down as the monk did in our story?

In our lives, putting down this proverbial young lady frequently requires a consciously directed intention.

Assimilation does not always come naturally – we need to learn to assimilate.

Here are my key 5 steps to conscious assimilation:-

1. Acknowledgement

You first need to recognise and acknowledge the young lady is on your back before you can put her down. Become aware.

2. Acceptance

You need to accept that you did what needed doing, for better or worse. You cannot let go of it whilst you have not accepted that it happened. Forgive yourself.

3. Assimilation (psychic digestion)

You need to metaphorically swallow the event, meaning it has occurred and only by taking this reality onboard can you evolve beyond it. So it is not through denial but rather the acceptance of that you evolve. Swallow.

4. Amalgamation

Once you swallow the reality of what has occurred, where do you put that reality?  Where in your personal make up does it belong?

You need to find a home for it – put it in its place.

5. Adaptation

The process of assimilation must of necessity change something in you.

If it does not, then you have not truly assimilated it. But if something in you changes, then this is adaptation. You have transformed.


Whilst coming to terms with assimilating our lives is not always the easiest thing, it is one of the most worthwhile.

Don’t let energy and attention trapped in your past hold you back from all you can be today and tomorrow.

The act of assimilating is incredibly liberating. Whilst we cling to an event or experience in our past, regardless of whether we perceive it positively or negatively, it drains us. It is like a leak in our psychic funnel.

The moment we truly assimilate the event we are immediately present in our lives again and that energy that was previously being wasted is available to us.

Your future is waiting for you, open your arms to receive it.

With blessings,


Read more inspiring articles about the meaning of life from Stephen Farah at his blog In Pursuit of Meaning.

You can also subscribe to Stephen’s posts via Subscribe to “In Pursuit of Meaning”.

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  1. Very nicely put, Stephen! Acknowledgement is indeed the first step towards making peace with everything. I feel that once we take responsibility and accept what is, it becomes naturally easier to deal with the tough stuff, no matter how big it may seem.

  2. Thanks Perena.
    Yes agreed acknowledgment is the first and critical step. Also I agree with your comment that if we deal with issues as they arise, we can avoid some serious potential challenges down the line. Or if we do have to face them we are more equipped to do so.


  3. A thoughtful and helpful discussion of an important matter. The story of the two monks is quite powerful and illustrate the five steps very well. The steps are difficult, but so necessary. And being in denial wastes a huge amount of energy.
    Thank you, Stephen.

  4. Hi Madeline
    Thanks for your kind words. Yes being in denial seems to paralyse us and we have to get past it to get on with our lives. Also I agree the steps are by no means easy. And one has to be careful of oversimplifying what can be a very challenging process.
    Conscious intention is a good starting point.

  5. Eileen O'Shea says

    HI Stephen,
    Thanks for all the wisdom in your post and in the story of the 2 monks. Much appreciated.

  6. I love that story of the monks. I’ve come a long ways at putting this process in practice, although I’ve never known/named the steps. Thanks for writing such a detailed post. I can see you put a lot of effort into it, and it made for great reading.

    • Thanks Jean it is a great story. I know what you mean about doing it- (assimilation) without calling by that name or going through those specific steps. These steps were taught to me by a great Jungian teacher and mentor- Chatillon Coque.
      Still at the end of the day I don’t think it matters what we call it only that we can do it.

    • Jean, you have no idea how much effort Stephen has put into writing this post, his first ever guest post!

      As I just added to the top of the article, I am delighted and truly honoured to have Stephen write his first ever guest post on my blog.

      Stephen, thanks for your numerous iterations and your patience whilst we worked through this process of creating a great article.

      And apologies again – I can be quite a task master!


  7. Beautiful post – I admit I had heard the monk’s story only recently and thoroughly enjoyed hearing it again here in context. What I really liked was the idea of Assimilation (and swallowing the event, gasp! I am great at denial but not at “swallowing”! 🙂
    Great first post, Stephen….Do keep writing please!

    • Hi Farnoosh (what a beautiful name :-))
      The ‘swallowing’ I think is the most difficult step, and without which the content is never truly assimilated.
      Thanks for your kind words about the post, it was a big step for me writing my first guest post for Arvind. Challenging but so worthwhile.

  8. Andrea DeBell - britetalk says

    I love the story about the two monks! Interesting concept of assimilation and letting go. It is important to learn to let go of our experiences. We only need to keep the lessons we learned from these experiences. Being in the moment (like one of the monks) is a great way to approach life.

    Thanks for such well described pointers. Loving blessings!

    • Well said Andrea, i like that we need to keep what is best about what we have experienced. The disstilled content.
      Glad you enjoyed the post.

  9. Hi,

    Great post! Loved the story of monks and the way the message being re-inforced of not clinging to the past events that have occurred, for good or bad.

    There’s no way you can change the past, so accept it, acknowledge it and move on! Key is to learn from the bad experiences and cherishing the good ones! AT the same time,remembering that its the present that we live in. Relish every moment, forgive yourself and others, rejoice in those little celebrations with ur loved ones.. there’s so much more to life each moment , WE only have to have an eye to look at those beautiful things and moments around 🙂

    • .Hi Riya yes well said and amplified. I like your comment about forgiving not only others but ourselves. I think sometimes we tend to believe that forgiveness is something we extend solely to others, whereas it really should start with ourselves.
      And with respect to assimilation it is essential.
      As my father used to say Charity begins at Home

  10. Annie Stith (@Gr8fulAnnie) says

    Hey, Stephen!

    It’s always interesting for me to hear about a process we all already do, put into words and seen from a different angle than the one I’m used to.

    I like the reminder that when we put off accepting the reality of our past experiences, we’re tying up energy that could be used elsewhere. That fits for me. If I’m fighting against acceptance, I’m tired and it can be difficult to function because of my low energy. If, however. I taske the timer to work thru an issue, I’ll get a boost of energy. It doesn’t happen immediately, but the day following a successful struggle to accept an event, I feel a boost in my energy — a bounce in my step, and enough of an increase to make me struggle with sitting still to work on things I find boring.

    There is one part of your theory that I don’t agree with, tho. I don’t believe that mental illnesses are the result of lack of acceptance and assimilation. If this were so, everyone with a mental illness would be drained of energy and unable to function. This isn’t how people with mental illnesses act. While some mental illnesses can drain energy, others can dramatically increase energy, such as in mania or psychosis.

    It’s been shown that most mental illnesses are caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that affect how we feel, and sometimes think and see and hear. Certainly, tho, not having accepted or assimilated past events could certainly affect and exacerbate a number of mental illnesses.

    Well written, easy to follow, and engaging post. Keep up this quality and bloggers will be inviting you to write.


    • Hi Annie
      Thanks for your extensive comment and the lovely compliment. Both are deeply appreciated. I must say that Arvind really guided and mentored me through the post, and I couldn’t have done it without him.

      To your comments:

      Yes it stands to reason we are either directing our intentionality (and naturally energy) in the direction our minds go. So a lack of assimilation traps our imaginative capacity in the unassimilated content.

      Another example of this is our frequent insistence on a point of view, on being right basically, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that we are in fact not right.
      As in the case of a dispute with someone, where it becomes about being right rather than the matter at hand. In a case like that simply admitting that we may not be right, whilst temporarily uncomfortable, is incredibly liberating. And I think that is analogous to the issue of assimilation.

      Taking my own medicine let me say yes I am duly corrected on the issue on not all psychological therapy dealing with unassimilated content. You are right here, I have overlooked cases of psychosis and other chronic clinical conditions, particularly those with a somatic basis.

      The above being said, I do not personally view psychology as a sub discipline of neurology. Whilst I concur that psychiatry plays an essential and critical role in mental health, I think all psychology is not necessarily somatic in origin or cure.

      My comment in the post (which I stand corrected on) was more with respect to neurosis rather than psychosis, which I do believe is principally due to a lack of assimilation. Also let me add that whilst a lack of assimilation would typically drain the person of energy, it may in some cases be a catalyst to extreme or violent outbursts of energy. Some of these being quite destructive in nature.

      Thanks again Annie for amplifying the post with your insightful and well thought out comments.

  11. I enjoyed your thoughful post very much Stephen. Sometimes though, I think, we can’t identify what it is that we have not assimilated. Love, V

    • Hi Vanessa I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      I think you make a very valid point about not always knowing what we have not assimilated. And like all true dilemmas I don’t believe there is a simple formula to resolving it.

      I would say that what we can do is to work with what we know we have not assimilated, and let the rest take care of itself. It may not be perfect, but since when was being human ever a question of perfection.

      I think all we can do is to strive to make each day better than the last.

      With love,

  12. Donna Willingham says

    Thanks for this post, Stephen – I found it very thought-provoking. I feel I should share with you an amazing course I did that I found life-changing. I’d been lacking in confidence and dealing with negativity around areas of my life, but the strategies that Sarah Merron of Fire Dragon Coaching teaches really helped me focus on getting the best out of myself and others around me. She runs courses in Cairo and the Maldives, so it’s a fantastic way to see the world at the same time.

    • Hi Donna

      The course sounds very interesting and those certainly are wonderfully exotic locations. I’m glad you found the post thought provoking. I have been working with the concept of conscious assimilation for around a decade now and still grapple with it daily.

      With love and blessings,

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