How to stop repeating mistakes and start enjoying life
Do you find yourself repeating the same destructive patterns in your life or relationships?
Would you like to understand these patterns, so that you are not controlled by them?
Clients often arrive in my therapy room pained, anxious and depressed. As they begin to unveil their reason for seeking therapy, it becomes clear that they are caught in a vicious cycle.
Vicious cycles are patterns within us, that we are compelled to repeat for long periods of time. These patterns, which are usually created in our earliest years of infancy, become fixed and rigid, making them hard to detect and highly resistant to change.
Our minds use these patterns, or neural pathways, to make connections that enable us to make sense of our world, ultimately increasing our survival.
If I’m bitten by a dog when I’m little, I don’t want to have to repeat the experience. By associating the experience with pain and danger, we create a neural pathway, a shortcut if you will, that provides information, without reliving the experience.
This might sound pretty good so far, and it is! Our brains have evolved over thousands of years, and have come up with a pretty good model.
So where do we get stuck?
The problem is that by adulthood, we have billions of these connections in our brains, yes billions! Whilst that can make us highly efficient, it can also make us a product of our past.
Now, if a friendly Labrador bounds towards me, I might find myself running away, frozen in fear, or exploding with anger, at the owner’s irresponsibility for letting their dog run loose.
In this moment, I’m no longer choosing to respond to the approaching dog, or my current wants and desires. Instead, I’m now primed to react to my past memories. And so, our lives can become vastly limited by a complex bundle of reactions.
Luckily, this is not the end of the story. Our brains are indeed incredible organs and they continue to be adaptable and malleable in a process called neural plasticity, which gives us the freedom to literally reroute our thinking.
However, anyone who has ever tried to change a pattern will know just how hard it is, but help is at hand!
Awareness has been identified as a major factor for increasing neural plasticity. Through awareness training we begin to identify repeated patterns.
Once identified, we can use our awareness to create a gap between our associations and reactions, leaving room to use our will to choose something else, to free us to be who we really are.
After all “If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done before.” Thomas Jefferson
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