Negative patterns are habits of thinking or behaving that limit our success and wellbeing, and generally hold us back in our self-development and self-realisation. No matter who we are or what we do, we all have them, as they are part of our experience of learning how to live well and master peak performance. Whether we are an individual, a group, an organisation, or a community, our success and wellbeing are dependent on us releasing these unproductive patterns. I am going to help you to do exactly this, by providing you with an understanding of why we have negative patterns, and the skills that we can use to release them.
The following list gives some common examples of negative patterns. You may have some of these yourself, and you may have some of your own.
- not staying centred or present
- avoiding responsibility
- thinking negatively
- not questioning assumptions
- not focusing
- neglecting your life purpose
- resisting change
- devaluing yourself
- devaluing others
- not looking for the bigger picture
- not looking for the details
- setting your expectations too low
- setting your expectations too high
- criticising others
- blaming others
- jumping to conclusions
- not responding to your intuition
- communicating ineffectively
- flying into a rage
- being disorganised
- being obsessive
- not resting or relaxing enough
- not listening to your body’s needs
- not responding to your body’s needs
- not exercising healthily
- eating unhealthily
- being addicted to things
- being too attached to people or things
- being too detached to people or things
- having poor boundaries
- having overly fixed boundaries
- being indecisive
- being inflexible or stubborn
- being a people-pleaser
- disregarding others
- not committing
- being over-controlling
- lacking self-control
- giving up
- being over-dependent
- not asking for support
- being reckless
- being overcautious
- abusing others
- abusing yourself
- not accepting yourself or others
Make a list of your own negative patterns, and be prepared to be honest. In order to spot them you could ask the honest opinion of a good friend, but I would also suggest practising mindfulness so that you move into your inner centre and pay deliberate, close attention to your thoughts and behaviour, without reacting to them or judging them.
Sometimes our negative patterns are part of our shadow self—those parts of our personality that we do not wish to face or own, and that we often project onto others. In this case, we need to take responsibility and develop self-acceptance for what we see as the good and bad parts of ourselves. Mindfulness can help us to be present to our shadow self, rather than to react to it with denial, fear, guilt, or shame.
Why We have Negative Patterns
Negative patterns occur as a signal to show us how we are resisting the free, natural expression of our authentic self. In other words, they are essential feedback for our personal growth and self-development—part of our guidance system. Rather than seeing our negative patterns as faults, and undermining our self-worth by doing so, we can instead see them as information that we can benefit from.
By having negative patterns we can learn through self-awareness how to choose something better for us. Just as muscles use resistance to grow, our personality also uses resistance to grow—in the form of inner blocks and negative patterns.
How to Release Negative Patterns
We become blocked in our personal growth and healing when one of two things happen:
- We stop paying attention to our negative patterns
- We misunderstand our negative patterns and deal with them ineffectively
The most important skill that you can develop to release negative patterns is mindfulness. Mindfulness allows you to to notice and pay attention to your negative patterns. Often our negative patterns are so ingrained and powerful because we are not fully conscious of them. We can not transform what we are not aware of, because transforming a negative pattern requires our attention to be directed towards it.
In order to be able to pay full attention to your negative pattern, you need to be in a state of non-resistance or non-reactivity towards it. People who have a strong sense of pride, or are anxious or fearful, may find this difficult. They may not want to admit they have a weakness, or that there is something about them that they may not like. If people fear change, they will fear changing themselves, and will fear looking within. In order to get past this difficulty, it is necessary to treat the pride, anxiety, or fear—or whatever drives the resistance—as a negative pattern itself, and work on that first. It is important in these instances of resistance to develop a positive mental attitude towards the negative pattern, by accepting it and appreciating it as a teaching for our personal growth, so that we may have greater life success and wellbeing.
Misunderstanding our negative patterns, or dealing with them ineffectively, occurs when we are not fully aware of them and their reason for being; are reacting to them; or are not centred in our authentic self. Cultivating mindfulness and becoming centred in our authentic self are crucial here, as is the ability to develop a fuller perspective as a result. When we have a fuller perspective, we can bring greater truth to the matter through critical self-inquiry. Often there will be an error of thinking that leads us to misunderstand the negative pattern. We may, for instance:
- create a generalisation
- omit information
- be selective in our thinking
- make an exaggeration
- make an unjustified conclusion
It is important to spot the error of thinking through mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches us not to get caught up in errors of thinking about a situation, but to experience the situation as it is, in the here and now.
For example, if we have a fear about asking for support, we may misunderstand it as a sign of weakness or failure. In this example we would become mindful of not asking for support, and mindful of our fear of weakness or failure, and break the association between them by noticing how they are not equal, how there are exceptions to the rule, and how asking for support can be a strength. The error of thinking could be any of the five listed above, depending on the instance, but certainly it is an unjustified conclusion that asking for support means that you are weak or a failure. We can challenge this belief as follows:
- Is that really true?
- Is that necessarily the case?
- Are there exceptions to that rule?
Sometimes there may be a hidden core belief behind the presenting belief. For example, if you believe that it is not good to share your home with someone, you may actually have a core belief that you will be out of control by doing so. Always be prepared to peel back the layers through greater mindfulness and self-inquiry. When you find a belief, ask yourself the following questions to help unveil the core belief:
- Why do I have this belief?
- What belief is behind this belief?
- Why is this such a bad thing?
When dealing with the issue of perception, you can also look at how you represent the negative pattern to yourself, and change your representation. Do you visualise the limitation or fear as large and looming in your mind? Try shrinking it to give it less negative energy. Do you see a picture of yourself as small, pale, and insignificant? Try enlarging yourself to your natural, glowing magnificence, to give yourself more positive energy.
In summary, to release your negative patterns, welcome your experience as a benevolent teacher, even if you are challenged and limited by it. Have compassion for yourself when you are having difficulty or suffering. Know that limitations of thought can be overcome and grown into a more complete perspective. But most of all, know that in every instant you are seeking to express the pure being of your authentic self, and that your mind can either support or hamper this process, depending on your degree of mindfulness.
In my Inner Wellness Programme I help you to identify and clear your negative patterns, and help you to implement the best strategies for self-development and Inner Wellness. To book a FREE Inner Wellness Session, click here.
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