Is There a Pattern Here?

> At any point in our lives, most of us are trying to modify or change something about how we behave or how we live.  It can be anything from weight loss to a career move.  While there are self-help books and support groups aplenty to help us through the difficulties associated with change, I’ve found a simpler and more self-reliant approach.
   Patterns are the key to how you behave and how you live your life. The ability to adapt or change requires that you first identify the pattern.  Once you know your pattern, then you can decide what steps you can take to interrupt or modify it, leading eventually to a new and hopefully more productive one. 
   Theory is great intellectual stuff and talk is easy. So I’m going to give you a personal example. 
   My whole life I’ve battled a tendency to get angry quickly.  I get angry when things go “wrong”… which usually means when they don’t go the way I want them to.  I have finally realized that the first step in heading off my angry response is to realize that 1) the other person’s response is not personally directed to frustrate me or my intended goal and 2) my perception of what is a “good” or “right” outcome is so limited as to be incalculable. 
    There are many possible outcomes to any situation, each holding the potential for it’s own unique growth experience.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve looked back at a situation and been amazed at the outcome…never having remotely seen the possibility for what actually occurred.  It’s through hindsight that we come to gain the perspective, and experience the wisdom, of events and outcomes that were hidden from us as they unfolded.

   So, I’ve developed a 3-step, self-directed approach to interrupting an angry response.

        Step 1.   Try and engage your mind at the first sign of anger..even though your emotions would rather engage without it.   Admittedly, this takes a little practice.  Re-acting is often like putting yourself on “auto pilot.”  This means you’re limited to the choices you originally programmed into the “auto pilot program.”  Most of us developed an anger response early in our lives to cover some type of pain, physical or emotional.  It’s likely that way back then you were either unable or unprepared to protect yourself from the source of your discomfort.  So forever after, when re-experiencing “incoming pain” you try and head it off with an aggressive, or angry, offensive action. 
       Recognizing this unproductive pattern, it’s possible to be aware of when your frustration or fear level is rising and intervene or intercept a purely emotional, and likely explosive, response.  What you can now do in these moments is re-focus outside of yourself.  Instead of defending against mis-perceived incoming hurt, become pro-active and redirect your thoughts toward the object or cause of your frustration.  Ask yourself, “What can I do for the other, or the situation, that will alleviate the difficulty?”  By becoming outwardly focused, rather than inwardly defensive, you engage your mind and thereby interrupt and harness the power of your emotions.

       Step 2.   Trust that a power, or pattern, greater than you has a
handle on what is happening and that the presence of that power’s
involvement, or inherent wisdom of that pattern, will produce an outcome
that is for the highest good of all concerned.  While you hold this
belief, you are free to release trying to control the outcome. It’s in
our failed attempts to control outcomes that we become angry.  With
trust, you can release the outcome altogether.

       Step 3.  This step is an art and also takes practice.  It’s the art of awareness.  Once you’re able to trust in the outcome and let go of your need to act defensively, you can really be open to, and aware of, what’s going on.  You can hear with clarity both what’s being said and what remains unsaid. You become aware of words and actions that, when combined, present a more accurate picture of what is occurring or what someone else is trying to communicate.  And while you’re being aware of the other, remember to also be aware of yourself as well.   Be aware of what you are hearing or seeing that may be triggering re-active or defensive issues within you.   Awareness buys you the time to be pro-active that being on auto pilot denies you.  

    So now, with my 3-step program, I never get angry anymore.  Right?  That’s what people say who write self-help books, isn’t it? They put forth their “new” program and tell you it’s the cure to what ails you when in fact, the cure to what ails you is you.  It’s being able to be honest with yourself, taking a good look at what’s been going on...the pattern…and making a commitment to re-organizing through changed behavior and co-create a new pattern that serves your intention better.
    I’m still just practicing my 3 Step program.  But practice makes perfect…or at least better.  I practiced law for 13 years and while I never got perfect, I did get better.
    I think I’ll give myself at least that much time to change a life-long pattern without getting angry at myself for not being able to rush the outcome.
    Wow! It’s working already.


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