Friday, December 17, 2010

Recognizing Patterns

Caution: the content of this post contains adult topics and may not be suitable for everyone.

They say recognizing the problem is halfway to solving it. What we often fail to realize is that many of our problems are habitual patterns in our set of learned behaviors. Ever faced a problem where you've said something like, "Why do I keep making this mistake over and over again?" (This is usually the same problem with a different set of variables.) It's because you are making the same behavior choices over and over again. Until you begin to recognize the pattern, you will very likely never consciously change it. In order to become the powerful creator of your life you were meant to be, you need to be able to make informed, conscious decisions.

Years ago when I worked in a group home with emotionally disturbed children, I worked with a young girl who had been molested by several of her mom's boyfriends. At the time I was still quite young and naive, but I did have the sense to recognize the dysfunctional pattern this mother had--one where she was apparently attracted to molesters. (I have since come to understand she was probably molested herself and caught in this cycle of abuse through learned behavior.) Because this pattern was so ingrained in the mother, she eventually lost custody of her daughter because the courts deemed she could not keep her daughter safe. Fortunately, the daughter was getting help and ended up with a terrific adoptive family. I don't know if the mother ever got the help she needed. Unfortately, this story is not that uncommon.

One of my own dysfunctional patterns was the result of wanting to help others. While I wouldn't call my first marriage a bad one, it was one where I did all the giving and my husband did all the taking. The marriage fell apart when I had small children to take care of and he was no longer my first priority. In the 10+ years I spent as a single mom, I had two brief relationships before meeting my current husband. Fortunately, I was able to recognize my old pattern within those two relationships relatively quickly and I was able to let them go without much trauma. My current husband is a giver like me. I have to admit, it was uncomfortable for me when we first began dating because I was not used to being catered to. Still, I understood that I deserved to get what I put out in the universe. I changed my pattern and solved that problem.

When you get to a place of conflict in your life, ask yourself a few key questions. Have I been to this place before (maybe with different people or in a different place)? What do I need to do differently to change the outcome next time?  Then, don't beat yourself up. Life is a process of making mistakes that ultimately lead to understanding and growth. It is in recognizing our dysfunctional patterns we are able to make the changes necessary to learn from this human experience.

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