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What to do with your patterns

by Dr. Amy Johnson on July 29, 2010

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You’ve uncovered some of your patterns. Now what?

Patterns, like fears, are kind of like zoo animals. They don’t respond well to taunting. And they didn’t do anything wrong, so there’s no reason to be mean to them, anyway.

Please don’t use them to beat yourself up and don’t get mad at them or blame them for anything in your life.

Instead, just observe them. Be interested, not judgmental. Become a scientist or a detective, noticing and observing and dissecting your patterns with complete objectivity. Or as close to complete objectivity as you can get.

It sounds crazy, but appreciate them because they are just a mirror for you. Love them, even. They are going to help you grow.

Our patterns aren’t stable or fixed. They can be picked apart and rearranged. Play with them.

When you notice a pattern you fall into, try to step in with awareness and purposely do things differently next time, just to see what happens.

For example, if you’re that guy who feels like no one treats him good enough, next time you notice yourself going there, stop and just pretend like the person you’re talking to is treating you really well. Even if you don’t believe it, try it on and see how it feels to pretend.

Or if you are the woman who has to buy shoes when she feels agitated, notice that and do the opposite. Sit still and don’t buy shoes.

Then observe what happens (Warning: this is going to be uncomfortable. Patterns are habits, but they probably also serve to distract you from some kind of pain. The discomfort that comes up when we don’t fall into our patterns is what you get to learn from. Sit with it until it begins to dissipate. It won’t take as long as you think.)

Beware of the tendency to dive too much into where your patterns come from or why they’re there. It doesn’t really matter. It’s like the connect-the-dots puzzle. It doesn’t matter which dot you start with, the game is in connecting them all and discovering the picture you’re left with.

Rather than ask where it came from or whose fault it is, ask yourself some different questions. You might try “How does this serve me today?”, “How does this hold me back today?”, “What pattern would I rather have?”, “What’s one way I can begin to play with this pattern?”

Have fun playing with your patterns! Let me know what you discover.

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