Many years ago I sat in a co-dependency support group listening to the group leader explain how patterns from childhood repeat. She explained that the painful situation we found ourselves in then had started with patterns in our childhood, which caused us to recreate what was familiar to us in adult life. I looked around the room, and you know, you can tell who is buying this explanation and who isn’t. I went home that night appreciating that self-growth requires a person to take a leap of faith in their thinking every time a new concept is introduced.
This concept that patterns from childhood repeat until we become aware of them and change them, caused a million light bulbs to go off in my mind. It challenged me to consider that my childhood wasn’t the picture-perfect image I may have convinced myself it was. As a child we do not know any better. We are just bumping along through life trying to make sense of it. Eventually, automatic pilot sets in and we recreate what we learned unless something happens that causes a wake up call.
This concept eventually resonated with me, and I accepted it, but not at first. It was new. I first had to listen to my mind run through its arguments, questioning the premise.
The group leader explained that we recreate what we know, and not because it feels good but because it is familiar. I would repeat to myself…just because it is familiar doesn’t mean it is right or healthy or functional. It just means it is familiar.
So the name of game then was to root out familiar yet unhealthy thought patterns and change those patterns to healthy functional patterns.
I am making it sound easier than it actually is. The fact is, anytime our picture of reality gets threatened, it causes a shake-up. It causes the part of us that found “comfort” in the familiar, to be re-evaluated. It challenges us to make a change.
It is not always easy to change our thought patterns and resulting behaviors because both are rooted in our experience. Experience that has repeated many times convinces our mind that it is truth. Our mind tells us this is just the way that it is. Patterns of thinking rooted in experience create a groove in our mental-emotional circuitry, thereby causing us to recreate the same reality, over and over.
While simple in theory, a concept like this, can be a real game-changer for someone who desperately wants to find a way to stop a reoccurring pain cycle. Yet a new concept like this actually challenges us to do something about it.
That night, as I listened to my mind run through its arguments, one argument was a sense of disloyalty to my family. They had, after all, done their best to raise me correctly. If I questioned what I was taught, was I dishonoring them? I wanted to uproot certain beliefs I had learned but I didn’t want to dishonor them. Also, I had the belief –very prevalent in the Midwest where I grew up – that I should always put others first. Self-healing, I surmised, would require me to focus deeply on myself. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Was this selfish?”
Eventually I took the leap: I decided to evaluate every thought and resulting feeling that arose and to do the healing work anyway. It was all true and relevant at once: my parents did the best they could, and my Mid-western upbringing taught me valuable principles. Yet I also needed to honor my own experience and how certain experiences impacted my self-concept and worldview.
Every new concept requires some kind of leap, some kind of surrender and vulnerability. Our minds will look for any excuse to stay where we are, to avoid the unknown. That is often why they say we have to hit rock bottom before we are motivated enough to take the necessary steps. Yet the pain of staying the same is often worse than the risk of leaping.
What is happening in your life right now causing a wake-up call? What leaps have you already taken? What new leaps are required? Maybe the next leap is to seek out therapeutic support, and to challenge any resistance to spending time and money healing your life. Whatever challenges you face now, you are worth the time and effort. Your life, your thoughts, your behaviors matter, not only to you, but to all who love you.
What started as a leap became my way of life, and I’ve never regretted taking it.
Julie Matheson is a spiritual counselor, helping clients create lasting change one pattern at a time through her guided writing process and energy clearing work. She appreciates the abyss between hearing a new concept and accepting it, and has designed a process that accelerates awareness by coordinating many helpful, soulful practices at once, making them safer and more impactful as you leap.