Aug. 12, 2011: Six Pattern-Breakers

This week’s post shows how to apply last week’s pattern-interruption strategy with six specific pattern-breakers.  As I mentioned last week, the key will be that the pattern-breaker is incompatible with the old  pattern.

A pattern is like a filter.  It keeps out thoughts and behaviors that do not fit it.  Thus,  a pianist who also can type does not start  playing  the piano when typing.    Stress makes some old patterns rigid.  In this way, the problem is not the pattern but its rigidity.

Pattern-breakers  consist of content that the pattern would normally filter out because the content  is as incompatible with the patterned response as our “clump of dust” from last week’s metaphor. A mnemonic for six such strategies is REPS-MI, which sounds like “replicates-me,”  meaning “restoring me.”  It stands for “Recognizing-Emphasizing-Pleasurizing-Satirizing-Materializing-Idolizing.”

Recognizing means attaching info that the pattern filtered  out.  For example, suppose I have a pattern of feeling controlled by others, and I attach the insight that “People cannot control your behavior unless you are trying to control theirs.”  (It’s true.)  Once attached to the patterned response, as described below, when the feeling comes up, the insight comes up.

Emphasizing means introducing feelings-states that the pattern had filtered  out and are incompatible with it.  For example, some people hardly feel anger and  others hardly cry.  Learning how to access the forbidden emotion can break associated patterned behaviors.  As an example, people who learn that their excessive anger is covering up sadness (or the reverse) can  learn to move  to the hidden emotion automatically.

“Pleasurizing” means practicing the recall of positive associations  and memories.  This reduces the stress.  A good example of this consists of positive feelings scans, where people remember times when they felt a particular positive emotion, like relaxation.

Satirizing means making fun of the silly, outdated logic  of the pattern.  Exaggerating patterned thoughts or responses usually accomplishes that.    Comedians often do this for us, when they lampoon our common foibles by exaggerating them.

Materializing means directly changing your physical state to reduce the stress.  Sometimes  it just means stopping an argument until you take  a bite to eat.  Another example is “sleeping on it” until you are more rested.

Idolizing is a specific type of satire in which  you make fun of your desire to hold onto the pattern that you hate.  If the other five pattern-breakers do not work, this is the one that will hold the key.   For example, imagine advertizing your services as the world’s greatest expert in your most common distress feeling.   Why are you better at it?  What can hiring you to teach it to others offer them? What are some of the tricks  of your trade that guarantee that people  will  feel  the same  way?

Which one should you use?   No one of them works for every person in every situation, which is why we need six.  Yet, at least one of them works  for any pattern you want to interrupt.

A good clue to the one to pick is the pattern-breaker that makes  you feel better when you think about it, especially if it  makes  you laugh.  When we are stuck, nothing is funny.  When you laugh deeply, you are usually not stuck.

Once you choose your pattern-breaker, you can practice it using the approach we discussed under “How does one manage indelible stress patterns?”

Starting next week, we will survey specific kinds  of  stress patterns.  If I get to  it, we  will start with breaking the pattern of  procrastination!

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