July 8, 2011: How to know when you are stuck in a rigid, outdated response pattern

[previously: we have been exploring awareness as a first  step in interrupting the old patterns that come up during  stress]

The most crucial form of awareness necessary to break the hold of a rigid pattern is to know that one is in its grip.  People often make the same mistakes every time they are stressed out, which is readily noticeable to outside observers.  However, this does not mean that they see the same phenomenon in themselves.

Along with causing regression to old, outdated responses, the experience of distress produces a type of tunnel vision.  Just as the structure of a tunnel is not apparent from inside it, we are usually unaware of the switch into rigid functioning in ourselves.

Accordingly, it can be extraordinarily useful  to develop skills in diagnosing the stress-regress in ourselves.  We have three hints:

  • overwhelming  feelings.  Unless we are being literally and physically overwhelmed, intensely negative emotions supply a good clue that our reactions are coming from the past, from the stress-regress.
  • “perseveration.”  This is the psychological term for the AA definition of “insanity” as doing the same thing  that is not working and expecting a different result.   The inability to change strategies is caused by the stress-regress.
  • either-or thinking.   If we cannot think of more than two options, neither of them helpful, we are probably stuck in the dichotomous thinking that goes with the stress-regress.

Any one of these three is sufficient to alert us that our responses are not present-based.  Some of us  are better at noticing when we feel overwhelmed.  Others are better at noticing repeated ineffective behaviors.  Still others are better at counting up the options that occur to us.  Any of the these methods tell us what we need to know and otherwise would not.

Next week:  a surprising key to unlocking these rigid patterns!

Dr. Blum has a new Facebook page! Please let him know that you “Like” it.

Follow his daily messages on Twitter.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2011 at 11:32 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply