Bringing our patterns, our unwanted thoughts and behaviours into our conscious awareness gives us the chance to look again at what we believe, how we feel we should behave and how we think. When we know what they are we can decide how well they serve us. If they serve us poorly then we can challenge them, make changes, develop new patterns and ways of thinking. It is the role of your therapist to help you do that. We learn that we have choices when, maybe, we thought we had none.
We learn that there is Hope.
We all have established patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour; they become reflex and we don’t realise that we have a choice in the matter.
We develop patterns throughout our lives, many during childhood as we learned how to “be” in our family and in our world. Some we developed before we had words to explain even to ourselves what was happening.
Some patterns contribute to our survival: looking before we cross the road, paying attention to traffic lights and flashing lights on level crossings. Some contribute to our acceptance into our community: being polite, behaving appropriately (whatever that may mean) or queuing.
However, some of our patterns are out-of-date; circumstances have changed and yet …
… And yet we continue to respond in the same way as we have always done.
Unfortunately for us, if circumstances have changed then it is very likely that repeating an old pattern is not appropriate now and may get a very unexpected or unpleasant outcome.
We seem to be especially prone to repeat and repeat patterns relating to family and siblings.
And yet, as adults we could choose to behave differently in the face of the usual triggers. We have a much richer experience which we could choose to use. We don’t have to follow our childhood responses; we don’t have to argue or bully or be bullied; we don’t have to call people names or stamp out in a rage; we could choose to behave differently.
And if we did behave differently then – oh, my goodness – we would get a different response.
Just think about times when people behaved differently when you were expecting a “typical” response from them. How did you feel about that? Pleasantly surprised? Confused? Wrong-footed?
When we choose a different response then the game changes! Others will respond differently to us. They have to because we are not doing or saying what they expect.
We can do something differently and get a different response.
Our experience of our world can change – and we can change it!
Some typical ways of recognising when you are running a pattern:
- You know, before you start, that interacting with this person always ends the same way.
- You know that you always behave in this way in that situation.
- You remember that you feel anxious, defensive or angry around this person or in that situation.
- You feel trapped because nothing changes, and you don’t feel good about that.
Here are some basic ways of changing a pattern:
- Notice when you are running a pattern and what is the trigger: a person, a situation, a word? You may find this difficult to start with or you may recognise what’s happening straight away. Persist and congratulate yourself when you do notice regardless of the point at which you notice.
- Plan how you would like to respond in future:
- Focus on your behaviour; Remember – you can only change your behaviour; you cannot change anyone else’s. How do you want to behave?
- Focus on how you want to feel about the way you handled the situation when it is all over;
- Focus on what you want your outcome to be; Remember, this must be regardless of what others do or say because you cannot control their behaviour or response.
- Now, take a metaphorical step back. Imagine responding in this new way. Notice how you behave, the words you use, the way you feel before, during and after. You can always tweak your response and work it through again.
- Cut yourself some slack if it doesn’t go to plan at first! You are learning new behaviours and that takes time. Congratulate yourself for taking the first steps to making the changes you want.