How to Break the Cycle of Conditioning

Updated: Dec 8, 2020


This is an activity I designed to help my clients identify and change unhealthy behavior patterns in their lives. You will need a piece of paper and writing instrument to complete this activity.

Step 1) Recover-Discover Memory Pattern

Draw a diagram cycle connecting each behavior with a line between each of the behaviors. For example, I get upset when my parent/significant other tells me what to do -------- I beat myself up for not being able to stand up for myself ------I avoid making eye contact and go hide -------- nothing ever gets resolved and I end up feeling terrible inside.

Step 2) Pattern Identification

1) Is this a typical cycle for you?

2) Are there other times you have acted out this cycle?

3) Can you identify how this cycle plays itself out and how you feel when you do it?

4) Make meaning out of the pattern “I do this because...” (I feel safe, it’s familiar, everyone in my family does this) and identify your feelings.

We follow patterns because our subconscious/unconscious notices and readily adapts patterns. In a sense, we can live on “auto-pilot” in a pattern of “shut-downness” when we perform the same pattern of living day in and day out. When we act out the same pattern enough times it becomes more than a habit, it becomes a belief; for example we might say “I always do this”. After this repetitive belief is accepted, the pattern becomes internalized and then it becomes a part of a person’s identity, “I am this way”. Habituation and belief together becomes an automatic response and often turns into obsessive thinking, unless the person can bring conscious awareness to the behavior.

Step 3) How to Undo Subconscious Patterning

In the space between each action is a line connecting it to the next action, this is where you have an opportunity to break the pattern. You can’t stop yourself once you’re doing the actions, however you can interrupt the pattern and eventually break it when you intervene in the pattern and go in a different direction. The easy way to start this is by “doing the opposite” at the point you “wake up” in the pattern.

It’s interesting that when we uncover a pattern or habit we realize our thoughts and judgments about these patterns, such as “I hate this about myself”. If we can find exceptions to the pattern in everyday life and uncover the beliefs and judgments about behaviors we can begin to reprogram them. We have to act our way into new behaviors, not just think our way into new ones. Thinking plays a role in it, but it’s more of a way to recognize and wake up in the moment when we see that we are in a cycle and then make a conscious decision to do something different.

If you enjoyed this blog or found it helpful, please let me know by sending me a comment!


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