Up to 90% of the average person’s day is based in deeply imprinted patterns. In fact, a recent study showed that 90% of the thoughts that pass through the human brain each day are the exact same as the day before! So, congrats, we can officially stop beating ourselves up for repeating old thoughts and behaviors that no longer serve us. That being said, many of us are highly motivated at the moment to make changes in how we think, how we feel, and most importantly, how we are being. To do this, we must take the courageous and compassionate steps necessary to break the patterns and create new ones that are more supportive and resourceful. This involves understanding a bit about how the brain works, why we fall into patterns and of course a few practical techniques to take action on.
This may be the most important part of this discussion. Please understand that the purpose of the mind is to protect us, to bring us more pleasure, to avoid pain and to keep us alive. It would NEVER intentionally hurt us or bring us more pain. All of those negative stories and self-sabotaging narratives are the subconscious mind’s attempt to keep us from being hurt! Sounds like a massive contradiction, right? Why would the mind create these thoughts that cause pain in order to avoid pain???
Let’s take a specific example that many of us can relate to. Let’s say Kris wants to transition to a new salon. A salon that they have been dreaming of and they really look up to. Well, the little voices in the mind start telling Kris, “you aren’t cool enough to work there,” “you aren’t good enough,” “the owner is probably going to laugh you right out the door,” and many more self-degrading stories that are truly hurtful. This is the brain’s way of protecting us? What? It sure is, and these are patterns built over time based on what we’ve been taught and what we’ve experienced!
Our imaginary friend Kris had applied for a dream job a few years back and really had experienced being turned down. It crushed them! They felt like an idiot and a failure. So, the mind said to itself, “we can’t let Kris feel these feelings ever again and since applying for a dream job was the cause, we need to make sure they never do that again at all costs.” So, it creates stories to keep us stuck or to keep us “in the comfort zone” to avoid what it senses has destructive potential, even if that means using painful stories as the motivator.
We can also see this in verbal abuse from parents to children. They say horrible things to keep the child stuck because the perceived pain of the child leaving home and becoming successful is worse than the guilt and shame the parent feels for saying these hurtful things to the child. This is similar to what we do within our own subconscious. And the longer we repeat these patterns, the more deeply entrenched they become.
The big question now is, “what do we do about it?”
1. Become compassionately aware of what is happening. Notice this does NOT say “get mad and beat yourself up.” Awareness is about letting go of judgement and seeing it for what it is. No need to try to “fix” anything at this first stage.
2. Get curious about what it might be trying to protect you from. What pain is the mind trying to avoid by telling you this negative story? What beliefs were you taught that might be coming to the surface?
3. Interrupt the pattern! Now that you are more aware of these patterns, you will recognize them faster and you can quite literally say out loud, “STOP.” Not in an abusive or confrontational way, but in the same way you would say it to a friend you love deeply who is beating themselves up in front of you.
Also, the physical body is great for pattern interruption. When you notice the pattern, a big movement like swinging your arms up and throwing them back down towards the floor like you are throwing the thought away can be awesome to short circuit that energy. Please put down your shears or razor before trying this one!
4. Ask yourself, “is this REALLY true?” And then, follow that up with “what is more true?”
5. Flip the script to a new story or affirmation that is supportive. This would be good to write down if possible so that it can be seen and repeated.
6. Practice the new script with patience, empathy, and diligence. It takes time to write new narratives that will run subconsciously. It can feel like a letdown when the old script comes back after a few days of practice. And this is where people usually bail on the process. Those old patterns could have 20 years of repetition under them. The good news is supportive thoughts have a higher energy frequency so it’s not going to take 20 more years to establish new supportive patterns, but it will take time.
Are you ready for some exploration? Take some time in the next 48 hours to become aware of what patterns are running in your own life. Are some of them creating significant challenges or blocks? Choose one (not ALL of them at the same time) and take it through the steps above. Create an experiment around what you will do each day to reinforce the new more supportive story or pattern and set a goal for how long you will sustain that experiment. Have fun with this! See it as something to play with versus something you “should” do.
Remember that life is a long winding path, and we will experience the high peaks as well as the low valleys if we are open to exploring. How we handle each moment is a choice, so we can choose to allow the existing patterns to unconsciously direct us, or we can step back into the lead and guide the mind in the direction we want to go.