Do You See Patterns?
By Wendy Palmer Patterson
Do you see patterns? Do you see your patterns? Do you see how helpful they were once upon a time? Do you see the patterns that are no longer helpful? Do you see the patterns that have become your enemy??
All of us develop habits and patterns to cope with our complex world. Many of these were established before we were eight years old. We know this because that’s when language fully comes online. Most of these patterns begin when we have no sense of language and, consequently, do not have ways to articulate what our coping mechanisms are.
New patterns can and will emerge. All of this comes from our perceived sense of what it will take to be safe in the world. We struggle with what will help us belong. We work to find what will give us security. We stress to discover what will keep us safe from harm. We make efforts to be attractive and lovable so that we will be wanted.
What drives patterns are our mindsets. Mindset is the collection of our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. This collection drives how we see the world and think of ourselves in the world.
Our work with forgiveness, our interest in what challenges people and mobilizes people toward joy and capability, returns over and over to the realization that the most significant thing we do is change our mindset. Our work in Imago is dedicated to mindset interventions. We just haven’t thought of it quite in that way.
Our ability to change our mindset is a unique quality of being human. Unfortunately, until we realize that we HAVE them we can’t decide if that mindset continues to work for us.
When we have repetitive difficulties it behooves us to consider looking in the mirror. We often ask people to assess the story they tell themselves about the given situation. The story is a window into the complex mindset that may now be out of date.
A change of mindset requires a several step process.
- First, it helps to articulate the mindset that exists.
- Second, a new mindset must be introduced.
- Third, ask yourself, “If I believed this new mindset, what would I do differently? How would I treat myself and you in a different way? What would that behavior look like?”
- Fourth, begin to experiment with doing the new behavior as soon as possible. Tell somebody what you have done. Replay the story experience you had, the intervention with yourself, and use it to let another person in on something precious about you. Chances are it will increase intimacy and it will add something to their lives as well.
Wendy Palmer Patterson, LCSW, LMFT
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