Do you have a string of bad relationships? Can’t quit smoking, reach that goal weight or feel worthy of that promotion? What about finishing things? Perhaps you have some attainable goal that just seems to keep evading you? All these things are negative life patterns at work. Unconsciously you may be doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome or stuck in a familiar way of doing things.
Unfortunately life patterns can be much easier to recognise in others than acknowledge in ourselves. For example, we can often see our friends or relatives enter the same types of relationship time after time but never find happiness. The problem is they seem oblivious to what’s right in front of them.
We all experience this in one form or another. For some it’s worse than others, such as people who unintentionally sabotage themselves with unhealthy behaviours or continue to place themselves in violent relationships. It’s only when life patterns are recognised and acknowledged that change can begin.
How life patterns form
Barbara Findeisen, psychotherapist and world renowned expert in pre-and perinatal psychology, believes life patterns form before birth whilst still in the womb. She explains that here we begin learning patterns of trust and security.
This strongly supports the theory that life patterns evolve on a sub-conscious level. For example, knowing that things covered in fur which have four legs are usually animals. We don’t remember when we learn these things, but most of us eventually do.
We also learn what to expect in various situations and from other people. Like if we walk down a dark alley alone at night we’ll probably feel scared, or if we’ve done a good job at work we may receive praise. Combined these things form our unconscious perception of what we know and what we anticipate to happen. If we anticipate a negative or positive outcome we act accordingly.
Remember this happens on a sub-conscious level. Many of us aren’t aware that we intentionally set ourselves up for success or failure, but ironically that’s exactly what happens. The only way to move forward and overcome it is to recognise your life patterns for what they are and make some essential changes.
Negative self-defeating life patterns
If you have a string of bad relationships, can’t finish things, feel stuck in a rut or just can’t seem to meet goals you set for yourself, you may have a self-defeating life pattern. People with this type of life pattern learn a negative perception and often repeatedly behave in a way that supports it. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy and occurs due to positive feedback between beliefs and behaviour.
For example, they may be attracted to a particular type of person and this is why the relationships they enter into end badly. Maybe they sub-consciously feel they can’t be in a relationship or that they don’t deserve happiness. They will choose partners based on this unconscious perception which supports this belief. When the relationship ends badly it’s familiar and expected, which in turn strengthens this belief.
How to fix negative life patterns
According to Kevin D. Arnold, a psychologist and Board Certified Cognitive & Behavioral Psychologist, there are some simple ways to overcome negative self-defeating behaviours.
1.Know what triggers your self-defeating behaviour
When you know what you want to change, work out the pattern which has lead you to defeat in the past. For example, you might eat when you’re tired rather than hungry. You might have a date with an ideal partner but not answer their call for a second date. Each behaviour has a trigger, so keep a diary and work out what you’ve been doing in the past which has prevented your happiness or success.
2.Control your triggers
This is pretty self explanatory, but pull yourself up on whatever the behaviour is when the trigger presents itself. Recognise it and the best method of control is replacing a negative behaviour with a positive one.
3.Replace Self-defeating habits
We learn every behaviour and most are a reaction to a trigger. The idea is to swap the behaviour for a non-defeating positive behaviour. Identify one which will work and replace the behaviour which is holding you back. It will become a habit over time and far easier to sustain a change.
4.Keep moving forward
We can’t change the past, so focus on the present and future. The idea is to shift your perspective of negative self-belief into positive self-belief. The power of positive thought works equally as well as negative thought, so if you have a choice, why focus on the negative? Over time your new behaviours will change your perception. They will confirm your positive perceptions and new self-fulfilling prophecies will develop.
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