There Are No Chance Encounters—All Relationships Are Spiritual Assignments

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Early addiction recovery is like plugging the holes of a sinking ship: once you plug one hole, another one appears. This was the case for me. As soon as I put down the drugs and the alcohol, all my other addictions flooded back in. I turned to food, work, shopping, and relationships to avoid dealing with my ego’s fear. Overeating was a great way for me to numb out at first. I’d plan each meal hours in advance for a sense of control. Then I’d binge to fill myself up. This pattern kept me focused on something other than my pain.

At first I just ate over my feelings, and then I began to date over them. When overeating no longer worked, I turned to my best avoidance tactic of all: romantic relationships. Sounds like a broken record, right?

The pandemic has made many of us feel like our ship is continuously sinking and we are feverishly trying to bail the water out…but those holes keep appearing, particularly when it comes to our relationships.

We are all doing so much more with a lot less support. And instead of dealing with the stress and pain and fear, we are turning to (or repeating) harmful behaviors. Maybe you are stuck in a relationship that you know should end, but because you fear being alone at this time you stay. Or perhaps you are being treated badly at work, but are scared to look for a new job—instead of looking for something new, you turn to emotional eating. Or it could be that you are so burnt out that even the smallest negative encounter (like getting bumped into or someone standing too close to you in a store) can trigger anger within you and you lash out.

I’m here to tell you that there are no chance encounters. Each one of these experiences offers us an opportunity to transform that fear to love—and create a miracle.

All relationships are assignments. Oftentimes, the same type of problem, person or situation will keep appearing in your life. That’s because it’s one of your spiritual (or Universal) assignments. Spiritual assignments show us that we’re always being guided, even when it doesn’t feel like it. The Universe wants us to heal, so we’ll keep being presented with our issues until we choose to heal them.

Here are seven steps to help you show up for those spiritual assignments, so you can stop plugging the holes and actually move forward with the life you want.


In The Universe Has Your Back I share the story of my friend Lance. He had this core childhood wound of feeling like he wasn’t smart enough. As an adult Lance became sober and quit dating for a few years to focus on his recovery. When he decided to start dating again, he got into a relationship with an awesome woman who was super into him and respected him deeply.

Amazing, right? Well, not to Lance. He came to me one day saying he had to break up with her because she clearly needed to be with someone smarter than him. His evidence for this was that she’d rib him for things like misreading a recipe or not being up to speed on some news story.

What she intended as loving jokes triggered his wounds big-time. Being 10-plus years into my own recovery, I saw this immediately and was like, “Whoa, hang on!” I explained to Lance how his girlfriend was literally the perfect spiritual assignment.

I could see the light bulb go off over his head. The Universe knew that he was ready to tackle this issue now that he’d been in recovery for long enough to feel stable in it.


Step 1: Recognize the spiritual assignment and call it by its name

Its name is fear. When you find yourself in a super uncomfortable situation, recognize and accept that fear has shown up in this way to get your attention.

When you can see the situation as an assignment, that’s the beginning of healing. This is a beautiful step!

Step 2: Accept that you can’t avoid the spiritual assignment

Here’s a gorgeous quote I put in The Universe Has Your Back from my teacher Ken Wapnick. He says, “We should be grateful for all the situations that make us the most uncomfortable, because without them we would not know there is something unhealed within us.”

Take that in. Read it again.

Can you be grateful for your discomfort and see it as an opportunity to grow, instead of seeing it as a punishment to complain about?

When a spiritual assignment comes up for me, I say “thank you for the assignment.” I thank the spiritual assignment for giving me the chance to heal.

Step 3: Honor your feelings

Let yourself be present with your pain and fear. If we want to get to the root cause of these assignments and really show up for them, we have to be willing to feel the pain.

true healing | gabby bernstein card deck

When you notice yourself triggered by your spiritual assignment, brea

the into the pain. By feeling the pain you allow it to pass through you. You strip away its power.

Set a 90-second timer on your phone and give yourself that short time to safely feel that feeling you’ve been avoiding. Know that you will have transformed it in some positive way when the timer goes off.

Step 4: Call on compassion

Being compassionate toward yourself is a big part of healing your old wounds.

When I recognize a spiritual assignment come up in my own life, I don’t judge myself for being back in the old belief system. Instead, I honor myself for being willing to heal. When you have the courage to witness your spiritual assignment, take a moment to call in self-love and say, “Here’s this old belief system again, but I’m awesome for showing up for it.”


Step 5: Place your faith in the Universe

When you’re dealing with your spiritual assignments, there’s a prayer I like to say to help me place my faith in the Universe. Say to yourself:

Thank you, Universe, for presenting me with this divine assignment for spiritual growth and healing. I am ready and willing to show up for this assignment with love. I welcome your support. Show me where to go, what to do and what to say. I trust I’m being guided.


Step 6: Clean up your side of the street

So often when we get caught up in our spiritual assignment, we can create a lot of drama around it. It’s easy to blame other people for our discomfort.

With my friend Lance, he went back to his girlfriend and said, “Hey listen, here’s what came up for me, and I didn’t show up for it in the best way.” In doing this he was able to restore their intimacy.

In The Universe Has Your Back I offer up a detailed breakdown of how to clean up your side of the street.

Step 7: Welcome healing

The final step is to allow the healing to occur naturally. All you need to do is have the willingness to accept the assignment, show up for it, and pray for it to be healed. Just step back and let the Universe lead the way. You will be amazed by the miracles that unfold.

All the greatest healing I’ve experienced in my life has come from an experience that the Universe placed in front of me and not something that I made happen. That’s the beauty of a spiritual path. When you surrender and allow the Universe to do her thing, true healing is presented to you.

You’ll learn that it’s safe to be vulnerable. You won’t stay in that toxic state. By showing up for your assignment, you’ll deepen your relationships and strengthen your trust in others. You won’t suffer by holding on to a job that isn’t right for you. You’ll no longer turn to emotional eating or harmful habits to plug the hole in your sinking ship.

the universe has your back gabby bernsteinI can testify that when you show up for your Universal assignments, you will be set free. My greatest experiences of healing, recovery, and spiritual growth are all the result of my willingness to do so.


ALL these steps are laid out in The Universe Has Your Back, with a beautiful meditation and lots of guidance. I hope this serves you.



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