Sunday, January 10, 2016

How to Interrupt Negative Patterns

July 22, 2014

I am so grateful that more than 25 years ago I paused and re-examined the craziness of fighting with the person I loved. By the Grace of God, both of us changed. This July, James and I are celebrating our 39th Anniversary!

There are conflicts and stress in every marriage. Here is a little story about how we now live and work together.

After dinner on Wednesday, July 2nd, I was ready to get a few things done before the long weekend. At 7:30 p.m., our neighbor told us, "Your lawn is rising up!" James hurried out to investigate. Our water pipe was leaking so bad that he had to shut off the water main from the street. While he sought possible repairs, I rushed off to buy a few gallons of drinking water.

It was a long weekend. In spite of James diligently researching solutions, getting estimates, and arranging to have both a temporary and a long term fix, we were still out of running water for almost two days. We couldn't take showers, but we were still able to lead Bible Studies.

Who could have imagined how far we came from the days of conflicts over how to raise our only son? I thought it was all his faults because I could get along very well with everyone else (or so I thought).

As Albert Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." James and I have learned to interrupt our negative patterns whenever they show up, and so can you!

Are you frustrated that you are stuck in some negative patterns in certain area(s) of your life? Take some time to reflect your interactive patterns and try something different for your own sake!

When unfavorable situations, actions and emotional conflicts happen again and again in your life—same scene, different characters—there's a good chance you are in the presence of a negative "pattern."

Some examples: picking the wrong lovers/partners, constant conflict with co-workers, chronic indebtedness, people-pleasing, getting along well with everyone except that one person!

At best, these negative patterns cause frustration. At worst, they cause undue suffering, uphill struggle, sometimes even death.

The good news is: you have the power to change these negative patterns. Below are some ways to begin to disrupt them so that you can start laying down new, more positive patterns.

Become aware.
No matter how entrenched a pattern seems, the act of noticing begins the shift away from damaging thoughts or behaviors. Put simply, you can't change what you're not aware of.

One way to become aware is to just sit with your thoughts and watch for the patterns. The goal here is to notice, that's all.

In this step, focus your awareness on just the facts and feelings of the patterns. Don't let your mind wander into the analysis of "why" you have them right now, for it will likely try to justify and defend the pattern. You can analyze later (see below); for now, just notice.

Also, ask people you trust to help you see the patterns. Our blind spots are called "blind" for a reason; we just don't see them. But they'll be clear as day to others.

Discover the hidden payoff.
Becoming aware of your negative patterns, you see evidence they are disserving, perhaps even damaging, you. For example, your pattern of conflict with co-workers has gotten you fired several times, and now your resume reflects that pattern, too.

The key to interrupting negative patterns is to understand this: we generally don't keep repeating behaviors unless, on some level, we get something good out of them.

These hidden reasons are known as "payoffs," and they either help you get more of something you want or avoid something you don't want.

In the example above, the person in constant conflict with co-workers could be using the conflict to cover up deep insecurity with his/her work quality. The conflict, in effect, distracts from scrutiny.

Or the conflict could stem from uncensored outspokenness. The person may have an oppressive situation at home, and being excessively frank at work may allow him/her to feel powerful and self-expressed in at least one arena of life.

Look for (and create) positive patterns.
One of the best ways to disrupt the negative patterns that may be wreaking havoc with your life is to also study the positive patterns in your life. For these can be "grafted" onto your negative patterns with great success.

For example, you can utilize the discipline you've always had around working out regularly to stop using credit to finance your lifestyle.

Most important of all, practice the Spiritual discipline of reading God's word to learn God's will for your life. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

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