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5 Tips for Breaking Patterns

This past December, I celebrated the winter solstice for the first time. We created a spiral made of stones and candles to symbolize the passing of a new year, the setting of intentions, and the letting go of old things that are no longer serving us. Since that time, the symbolism of a spiral in life cycles has been on my mind.

Many times in my life I feel I've learned some big and powerful lesson about myself. I make new choices and try to seek for ways I can continue to grow. I'll often think I've got something figured out, but then some theme will re-emerge in my life. I get so frustrated with myself, "I'm doing it again! When will I learn?" All my life I have been thinking about problems as linear. I discover the problem, I work on the problem, the problem is solved! But as it turns out, life is a lot more like a spiral than I'd wish it to be.

We are in some ways the same we have always been, and yet always different from previous versions of ourselves. No version of us is exactly the same, or completely different. Those parts of us that linger, that we carry with us into each new phase of life can create re-emerging patterns.

Our story, our personality, our character arch - they depend on us to have characteristics that will stay the same over time. Our default modes. When our default modes show up in unhelpful times, we can form interactional and relational patterns that can feel like we will never break free of problematic narratives. We find ourselves in similar conflicts, predicaments, and challenges over and over. But it is not a circle, it is an open spiral. Even though we make the turns over and over, they are different each time. Even though we may loop back around, we are expanding outward, taking in new information each time. We will still be ourselves with each turn; however, we will be a more evolved version of ourselves.

Here are some tips on how to "break" or change patterns of old behavior:

  1. Give yourself some grace. You are not the only one struggling to unlearn old ways. Give yourself credit for the growth you gain and maintain even if there are things you are aware need to change.

  2. Work on your awareness. Sometimes the first step in creating big change is just... noticing! Notice how you respond. Notice what activates you. Be aware when you do something unexpected and surprising. Acknowledge when you've made a mistake. Sometimes the best information comes from just observing what is without trying to change it.

  3. Share your experience with someone you trust. It can be helpful to share when you notice your experience, your patterns, your mistakes, and your successes with someone else. Therapists can help keep you accountable to yourself, but sometimes trusted friends and family are just as good. Let people know what you are working on. It may help you stay on track.

  4. Ask yourself if it is a season of growth. Sometimes we grow in spurts, like flowers in spring time. And sometimes our growth is dormant like the winter. Even rest can be productive. Maybe you had a productive year, followed by one with setbacks and hiccups. The hiccups do not cancel out the progress, and they aren't proof that you won't experience progress in the future.

  5. Acknowledge where you have choices and where you don't. Sometimes it feels like we don't have a choice, when we do. And sometimes we try to control things that we have absolutely no control over. Each of these can have significant impact on how we continue to engage in old patterns that no longer serve us. Breaking a pattern can be initiated by choosing to do something you have never done before, or choosing to not do something you have a habit of doing.

If you are interested in breaking old patterns and would like support,

DD Love, MFTC - (970) 852-0687 -

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