How to spot a repetitive pattern?


It takes radical honesty and a good dose of self-compassion to recognize a repetitive pattern. Sometimes our recurring behaviors and experiences become so ingrained they feel like a part of our identity. And it's necessary to take a step back and look at them through a wider lens.

I’m a big proponent of journaling. Since writing, especially stream of consciousness writing where you don’t censor yourself and just let the words flow on the page, allows you to gain distance necessary for pattern recognition.

So look back and take a stock of your past, what led you to where you are? Do you notice any situations that tend to repeat themselves? It can be evident like always getting involved with a similar type of person or continuously missing out on opportunities because you don’t feel good enough. Sometimes it’s not so obvious and visible externally, but the essence of the situation might be the same - meaning it makes you feel the same way. There is a strong sense of familiarity although the circumstances might be very different. It might feel uncomfortable, but at the same time strangely it feels like deja vu. It feels like home, but not in a good way. Take a note of that. It’s your clue leading you to uncover a pattern. 

Next look for patterns which are more internal, like a pattern of negative self-talk. Maybe you continuously put yourself down or tend to catastrophize. Those patterns lead you to make specific choices and behave in a certain way so sooner or later they will manifest externally. The same is true of emotion. Is there a negative emotion that’s always there, in the background of your life? Are there emotions you are experiencing on repeat? Does it feel as if you are recycling the same feelings and often they are not reflective of what’s happening in your life at the moment? They are your clues leading you to identify a pattern that could be potentially sabotaging your conscious efforts.

Once you recognize the pattern, you can start looking for beliefs that created it, and this is how you release it. Identifying the pattern is the first step in the healing journey it’s a positive step because you can’t heal what you don’t know. 

I mentioned self-compassion for a reason, seeing our patterns in a bright light of the day can be difficult and cause us to feel guilt or shame. You want to avoid falling into this trap. Treat yourself as you would your best friend or someone you love. Every single one of us carries emotional baggage, does things we are not proud of and fails from time to time. It’s natural and human because we all react to old hurts and stories by forming some patterned behaviors or experiences. What you are doing is an act of courage, so extend yourself some love and forgiveness.