Pursue What Matters
Episode 242: Pesky Patterns and Vicious Cycles
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Are you caught in a pesky pattern or a vicious cycle? When we live our lives on autopilot, we set ourselves up for traps of our own making, and cycles that keep us stuck.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:13
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the pursuit matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So first off, we all have ineffective patterns, and vicious cycles. We’re human, and we’re imperfect. So you’re in good company, if you recognize, oh, I got some traps of my own making. The other thing is that we as humans don’t have perfect awareness of our unconscious life. Now, I just did a podcast yesterday on how awareness helps to uncover the iceberg, the iceberg being your unconscious life. But you can, you can do a lot of work around self awareness, and you’re still not going to have perfect awareness. And so, you know, today, we really want to help you develop some skill sets for cultivating some curiosity, and learning to identify some of your patterns, or cycles or traps, so that you can move towards greater self awareness. And so the first thing we want to start with is, we want to learn to question our patterns. And so it can be so incredibly frustrating to discover you’re caught in another trap of your own making. But learning to ask the question, why does this keep happening is the first step to greater self awareness, and eventually learning to sidestep the traps and cycles that keep you stuck?
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:57
So when it comes to asking this question, you need to do it with curiosity rather than criticism. If you can ask that question with curiosity, it can really help you better understand what your patterns are, how you get stuck, and how you might disrupt the cycle. And that’s really important, so that your actions are in line with your values, rather than your actions, undermining your values. This helps you to disrupt the patterns by bringing unconscious material into conscious awareness. And again, we talked about that quite a bit last week. So when we think about what we want to bring into conscious awareness, we want to bring our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions into conscious awareness. So let’s start with thoughts. We want to understand our core beliefs. And we all have some core beliefs that really our psyche developed in for many of us early childhood. And so some of these common core beliefs might be I’m not good enough, I have to prove my worth, I have to manage others perceptions of me, I have to be eternally self sacrificing, I don’t deserve rest, I don’t deserve pleasure, right. So these are deeply held core beliefs, often a result of our pain, or are difficulties with attachment connections. And the thing about these core beliefs is we kind of leave them in our core unexamined. So we don’t we, you know, we don’t take the time to really question like, well, is that true, but we don’t have awareness about it. And so we fail to appreciate the ways that we are acting on some of these core beliefs. And so these core beliefs can often be the main drivers of our vicious cycles. I
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:45
t’s why we keep getting stuck in patterns that undermine ourselves. And so at an unconscious level, we are maintaining these core beliefs that are not true, that are often deeply held as truth, we don’t ever even take the time to examine them. And so when we think about the foundation of core beliefs, it’s often shame, which is our most primitive emotion, you can also think about some of these thoughts as the inner critic, or the voice in your head that reinforces these core beliefs, right? Like, oh, well, that was stupid, or why did you do that? Plenty of us have a lot of a lot of playing time with our inner critic, and that really keeps us stuck. And then the second component that we want to talk about our emotions, right, so we want to bring, we want to bring our understanding of emotions into conscious awareness.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:38
So as I mentioned, the foundation of core beliefs is often shame, which is our most primitive emotion. And then of course, the inner critic drives judgment, guilt, shame, and a feeling of never been good enough. These experiences often lead to anxiety, overwhelm, anger, resentment, and a ventually despair. So it’s a real problem. The other thing we want to examine when it comes to, to bringing our unconscious material into conscious awareness is looking at our actions, we have a lot of actions that undermine ourselves. So this is where we think about defense mechanisms, we think about self sabotage, we think about repeating patterns that undermine your values and your goals. And so if you think if you notice for yourself, that you’re constantly engaging in behavior, that actively undermines your values and your goals, you have some work around self awareness to do we the work is we want to bring the unconscious into conscious awareness.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:42
So you can examine some of your core beliefs, you can connect with those emotions in your body that help you to get clarity about why do I keep running into the same brick wall, it’s not necessary, you don’t have to do that. And so the work of self awareness is really helpful for doing just that helping you identify those patterns. And so you know, these thoughts and emotions that we’ve talked about, propel us to act in undermining ways. So we say yes, when we actually mean no, we tend to live reactively. Rather than proactively, we maybe disregard our own boundaries, because we don’t want to disappoint others, or we’re trying to prove ourselves. And so of course, these actions will leave us feeling more impotent, rather than empowered in our lives. And we do that enough over time, right? Like you have a pattern of behavior with that, over time, you can start to ask, what’s the point? Like, why do I even try, and you know, often the, you know, often this can drive us into deeper ruts of the vicious cycle. And so we really do want to be aware of these patterns. And so let’s, let’s now turn towards understanding these vicious cycles a little bit more. Because, you know, we all can have them. And so I’m going to share just like a general cycle for you, that the specifics of your pattern might look a little bit different. But these are pretty common themes. So the first thing is that there’s behavior outside, outside of your rules, or your values or your norms, right? Sometimes the, it’s the rigid rules we’ve set for ourselves. Sometimes its behavior outside of our values, or our belief system. And, and then we move to shame, guilt and criticism, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:37
Like Stupid me, I can’t believe I did it again. And then those emotions are really painful to cope with. And so what happens, our inner critic takes over and says, we are going to get this under control. And that often comes in the form of self punishment, taking control with an increase in rigid rules, and expectations, like maybe it’s working to the bone, maybe it’s cutting yourself off from connection and pleasure and relationships. And after that happens, right, there is a temporary relief against the tyranny of shame and feeling out of control, because the brain likes certainty. And so when you come in with taking control, right, the inner critic comes in and takes control, there is some relief, because it’s your brain is like, now we have a plan. And there’s relief that comes in that. But as we continue on the cycle, we were not meant to sustain on willpower alone, we’re not meant to be rigidly controlled as humans. And so willpower inevitably fails, because our rigid rules our inner critic, these are not sustainable with living, right. It’s just not the reality of life. And so what happens when that willpower fails, we become more susceptible again, and we act outside of our values or outside of the guidelines and boundaries that we’ve set up for ourselves.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:06
Now, sometimes with this cycle, the work is we need to examine the rules or the boundaries that we’ve set up for ourselves. Are they overly rigid? Are they too perfectionistic? Do we need to reassess those and so you know, the personal boundaries or rules that you have for yourself, really should be driven from your values, first and foremost. And so when we want to understand the vicious cycle, first we need to take a look at those rules and challenge your rigid rules. If you have those in place. Sometimes those rigid rules are the result of our core beliefs of I’m not good enough, so I need to work harder than other people. And so if that is maybe one of your rigid rules, you need to give yourself permission to take a break. Remind yourself that there is often not a right way or a wrong way to do most things in life. That is true of most things in life. You need to to challenge all or nothing thinking, you need to bring more nuance into the situation. And so as you move along, we want to build in self check points.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:10
So you don’t wake up spinning in one of these cycles. So when you’re engaged in a behavior, having check in points to ask yourself, How am I feeling? Am I still enjoying this activity? Am I still enjoying this food, whatever, whatever the behavior is, and then build in some breakpoints for yourself where maybe you get up and walk around, you stretch your body, you do some deep breathing. And in general, we want to bring in a little more body awareness. Because what happens, these cycles happen when we are unaware when we’re not in conscious awareness of ourselves. And so we want to build in some checkpoints, so that we can catch ourselves if we’re getting pulled into a cycle. The other thing that we want to do is we want to challenge guilt. So when you think about the rules you have for yourself, Is it really necessary for you to feel guilt about this? And what would it be like to enjoy the activity without guilt? Now, if that activity is outside your values, right, like, we probably wouldn’t ask that question. But sometimes we have rigid rules that really aren’t based in our values, but they’re really more based in our core beliefs of negativity. And then the other thing we want to do is we want to set and maintain boundaries with ourselves and with others.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:25
So I talked about this last time on the podcast, but we want to build in white space, both at home and at work for reflection, we want to build in self care time for renewal, we need to set boundaries with team members and then abide by them. And we want to take regular breaks, both at home and at work in order to protect your sense of purpose and your passion. Right. And and we think about that specifically related to work, if you never take breaks, you will end up overwhelmed and resentful and ready to burn it all down. And we don’t want that to happen with you. The other thing that we want to do, especially if you notice you have a lot of rigid rules around your cycles, is to your ineffective cycles, is we want to experiment with pleasure. is pleasure, a dirty word. And why why is that, so getting curious about some of the core beliefs that you might have about rest and recovery and pleasure.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:22
So we think about allowing enjoyable touch, intimacy, massage, reflexology, assisted yoga, and things that really helped to bring comfort, we, you know, think about tactile comfort. So a cozy blanket, really lovely PJs, we think about cultivating beauty. So art design elements, something that brings you joy, when you see it, when you touch it when you hear it, these can be really helpful, like small simple ways that we bring in pleasure and a little less rigidity. And then thinking about savoring a delicious meal or favorite dessert, and really, you know, helping to challenge some of these core beliefs around not being deserving or not being able to enjoy pleasure. And so that is an example of a vicious cycle that we really want to disrupt. And I shared several ways that you can disrupt that cycle. And so lastly, I want to, I want to end with how you can create a virtuous cycle because virtuous cycles are lovely, and they help us to continue to grow in in learning and in our value system. And so the first component of a virtuous cycle is that our behavior is consistent with our values. So there’s not a disconnect between our behaviors and our VOP values. And that’s really important. And so that leads us to the next point of that virtuous cycle, which is we feel peace, contentment, and a sense of well being, right, there’s nothing to hide, there’s nothing to justify, there’s nothing to defend against, we have peace, and well being and well being is a hallmark of mental health. So really good to pay attention to there. And then that leads to the next component of the virtuous cycle, which is we have a sense of connection to purpose, and goals that help you fulfill potential. So it really in a very real way it empowers you. And that leads us to the next step of the virtuous cycle, which is empowered action. And over time you we begin to contribute at our highest level, which is really incredible. This is part of why it’s a virtuous cycle. And then the next step of that is that you serve a purpose greater than yourself, and you support the development of others. And so your impact you for good increases over time. And then that leads you to the next component of that cycle where we start to repeat that where your behaviors consistent with your values. And so when you are engaged In a virtuous cycle, not only do you benefit, but you can’t help but benefiting others, you can’t help but benefit others through your behavior because you’re serving a greater purpose. It’s not just about you, it’s actually about serving a purpose greater than yourself, and really supporting others. And so in that way, it’s really, it’s really beautiful. It absolutely is a virtuous cycle. And so I hope that this has been helpful for you in terms of maybe getting a little bit of a better grasp on some of your undermining patterns, and then thinking about some simple ways that you can move towards more of a virtuous cycle.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:41
And so head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmsith.com/242-peskypatterns one more time. www.drmelissasmsith.com/242-peskypatterns please consider joining me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith I always have more resources related to the podcast there. And if you’re so inclined to provide a five star review on Apple podcasts or Spotify, I would so appreciate it. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care
Transcribed by https://otter.ai