Breaking Old Patterns is Hard

The title of this piece is profound as it is, but I'd like to add the longer you have been embracing those old patterns, the harder it is to let the go.  I know. I had been using some since childhood. When I began to see I could choose a different way forward, I was already in my 50's. Before then, I didn't know it was possible to change. I thought I was stuck living like I always had.

Once I began to see I could embrace a different future, the question became how to go about reaching for it. Sometimes we learn lessons quickly. Other times they take a long time, with lots of steps to take one after another.  For me in this instance, the latter was true. Letting go of all my old patterns and creating new ones took another decade for me to first understand and then incorporate.  And honestly, I am still a work in progress. I suspect that will be true until I take my last breath. 

I was triggered to revisit this topic by a few lines I heard repeated in a TV show I was watching the other day. They led me to think back on my personal journey to heal. The idea shared went something like this, "Impulsively repeating dangerous behavior is easy, breaking those patterns is hard...Can we learn from out history or are we doomed to repeat it."  While I hadn't been repeating dangerous behavior patterns, I had been repeating ones that kept me from letting go of past negative messages and moving forward in a positive way. 


I found myself pondering if I had finally broken those old, ineffective patterns completely? If so, what had I learned from them? A few ideas arose, but in I suspect it will take me a long time to answer them fully as change is rarely accomplished in a split second. It happens over time, and in my case inner transformation seems to arrive rhythmically, like waves crashing against the shore, with every seventh wave bigger. 

It seems we never totally excise past negative voices or difficult traumas from our being. Fragments of them hide in dark corners of our soul looking for the right moment to pop out.  Their appearance might be triggered by a difficult moment, or they might show their face unexpectedly when all is well.  I just can't predict it. In one of her books Jan Arden talks about this, saying unwelcome thoughts can even bubble up totally out of the blue when she is happily engaged. 


In my case, damning thoughts seem destined to make themselves known when I turn over in bed at 3 - 4 a.m. and am defenseless.  I lose sleep as a litany of old negative messages, regrets, mistakes, damning comments, personal failings, ageism, and body shaming scroll through my mind. They also love to appear when I am in an uncomfortable social situation where I feeling inadequate and like I don't fit in.  Oh boy, is that fun. Trying to keep a smile on my face when I am shriveling inside is not easy. 

Why do I do plaster a smile on my face when this happens? Because I refuse to let negativity from my past affect who I am in any given moment. I chose how to respond to an attack of negative emotions and memories. I know it is not the truth of who I have become, or who I am in this moment. And I know these feelings will pass if I let them.

I choose not to hold onto negativity. I refuse to feed it by keeping it close and gnawing on it's bones.  When out, I simply ignore the attack as best I can. However, when back home in a safe space, I set aside time to sink deep within and explore whether there is something at needs to be healed and released. I let the feelings arise, acknowledge them and then allow them wash through me and out.  


Change and growth most often happens in small steps. They come in waves, each at the perfect time and when they are meant to. We are always moving forward, both alone and as a species. The best focus one can have is to be fully present in each moment and to walk your journey one single step after the other.