How do we change this pattern?
Here are three simple steps that I’ve used successfully for shifting many of my fear-based patterns.
Step 1: Pattern Recognition – What do you do when you’re in your pattern?
Identify one or two things that you do that signal you’re in your habit.
Your fear habits aren’t random. Generally, you react to specific events with specific words, actions, thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
The good news is that you only need to be able to recognize one or two of these things to be able to notice when the pattern is happening.
So, how do you recognize a pattern, especially an unconscious one?
First, imagine something that you react to with fear.
Do you have a hard time receiving things? Do you worry about things like food, weight, money, sex, or relationships? Do you push people away, shut your heart down or refuse to take chances? Do you get scared when you think you’re wrong or feel out of control?
Then, choose something light so that you can stay conscious of yourself, and start looking, listening, and/or feeling the pattern so that you can identify a few simple signals that tell you you’re doing it.
Finally, ask yourself some questions so that you can start identifying some signals. One or two of these questions will be easy to answer, and that’s all you need.
What thoughts or emotions do you have when you imagine this?
Many people have impatient, depressing, angry, or anxious thoughts or emotions. What are your thoughts or feelings?
What things do you say?
Many people will use indicative words like “should” or “never” or “can’t” or “won’t”, put themselves down or blame themselves or others. Listen to your internal dialogue as well as what you say to others. “I can’t believe I did that! I shouldn’t have done that! What an idiot!” are great indicators. What kinds of things do you say?
What things do you do with your body?
Many people will have habitual body movements like turning away their head or shoulder, clenching their jaw or hands, shallow breathing, or tunnel vision. What do you do?
Step 2 : Pattern Separation – Realizing that you are not your thoughts and feelings
Recognize that you and your patterns are separate things.
Now that you have a few signals that indicate your pattern, notice that your pattern is a set of mental, emotional, and physical “actions.”
You have thoughts and emotions like you have possessions. You have them like you have clothes. You can put them on and take them off. You can change them and no matter what you have on, you are still the same person underneath. You can think one thing, and then think something else, and no matter which of those thoughts you are thinking, you are the same person.
Likewise you are not the actions that you do. You can throw a ball up and then throw a ball down, and you are still you.
Why is this important?
Because this means that you can separate yourself from your thoughts, emotions, and actions by realizing that you are not them. You can realize that they are things that you are having and doing, and that you can choose to not have them or do them. You can choose something else.
This is crucial.
As soon as you realize that you have a choice, then you have a choice. As soon as you realize that what you have and do is not you, you have a choice about what you have and do. Or don’t have and don’t do.
This is the beauty and the challenge of changing a habit. You have the power. You have always had the power. Once you realize that you have the power then you can use it. You can consciously choose to say “yes” or “no” as you like. Changing your habit may still take a bit of time, and at this point it helps to make a strong commitment to change, to love yourself enough to say yes when you are used to saying no. Usually you’ll have to recommit, over and over, until the change is made. This takes patience and self-compassion, and a sense of humor helps a lot.
Step 3: Pattern Break – Making a new choice
Now that you can recognize when the pattern is happening, and realize that you’re separate from it – that it is a choice that you are making – you can begin to choose something else.
In the beginning, if the pattern is really strong, it may help to choose something very simple like focusing on your breath instead of focusing on your fear. Generally, the body is a great place to start because it places you firmly into something tangible.
When your pattern arises, you might just notice your breath moving in and out of your body or your feet on the ground, or where your elbows are, the quality of light that you can see in the room or the sounds you can hear. If one of your indicators is a habitual body position, like clenching your jaw or collapsing your chest, simply softening your jaw or lifting your shoulders is a great place to start.
You will find that all of this gets easier and easier as you do it, and as you build this new muscle, soon your choices will expand to clarity, creativity, excitement, joy, love, expansion, lightness. Enjoy your power to choose. Enjoy saying yes!
Elena offers quick and easy meditations at ToothbrushMeditations.com and welcomes your feedback to this article. Please share your experiences below.