Get in to the RACE – Break a pattern
By Victor Kannan
Some people say break a pattern to create a new one. Why create a new one? Can we stop a bad habit and break the negative patterns instead? Some of the patterns are the way we act and react, think, and say things. They are related to manners, behaviors, and tendencies. So, changing the pattern would mean act and respond properly and empathize and speak gently and eventually help reset our behaviors and tendencies that are deeper.
Step 1: Recognize the negative patterns you want to get rid off
As yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going you will surely get there”. It does not matter whether you know where you are going or not, if you keep going without stopping, of course you are going to get there. In other words, it means "Don't drift".
This is the story of our lives where for the better part of our entire life we struggle with a few habits and patterns. If we are fortunate, we realize the impact and regret them. Then we have a chance in life to break the pattern. If we do not regret them, it would mean, we are not aware of these negative patterns. If we are not aware of them and if someone tells us and if we deny their existence, where is the hope? We could even get angry. If this is our situation we are on the borderline of mental illness.
In all the books, talks and videos, for self-transformation, the first step that is prescribed is, to know and accept that there is a problem. Accept we have this negative habit or tendency or pattern.
Step 2: Analyze the habit or the pattern:
Once we recognize and accept let us analyze the pattern. What are the various causes that contribute to this? Let us unpack the complexity.
One of the 12 steps in the Alcoholic Anonymous program or any Drug rehabilitation program is to take a complete and honest inventory of one’s self. One is asked to write down their fears, temptations, resentments, and any other negative things about them that might be used as a cause of that addiction, a coping mechanism. So, these habits and tendencies we exhibit as patterns of behavior, have several root causes. At times, hitting upon the right one would automatically begin to release us from that behavior. So, it is important to analyze one’s inner self thoroughly.
We should ask ourselves these questions and answer them honestly. Ask and talk to your self and see what you hear as a response from your honest self. “Am I insecure? Why do I get angry? Who do I trust? Can I talk to someone to understand that I am not alone with these habits? This may be more prevalent, and I do not need to be ashamed of accepting this problem. I may be normal in other ways” etc.,
Step 3: Catch the act
This is based on my personal experience. Regretting a behavior after committing it, is nearly not as effective as one catching oneself in the act. If one can catch oneself in the act, we have the possibility of pausing, stopping and even changing.
In 1949, Canadian neuropsychologist, Dr Donald Hebb, in his work on associative learning, coined the phrase “neurons that fire together wire together”. How do we stop the neurons that fire together so we can rewire them? It is this action of pausing or catching oneself in the act of a regrettable pattern that the firing is paused. Right there a habit is broken. This may be the first half of a step but a crucial half step.
When we catch ourselves in the act, let us not get impatient with ourselves. Let us be self-compassionate. Let us forgive ourselves. This will help us in healing faster and to gain the inner stature of calmness for the next step.
Step 4. Effect the change.
Once we catch ourselves in the act, not only the brain pauses, neurons fire differently, but we are now ready for the change act. Now the act to be completed is the new pattern or new habit or the normal habit or behavior you are desirous of cultivating. So, go ahead and complete the act consciously with the full awareness and involvement of your body and mind.
This act is what completes the change. One would see that within a few attempts this old habit or pattern is eliminated. In its place a new habit or the normalization has taken place.
So, the race to change oneself, and to give up our bad habits and patterns starts with a simple act of recognizing the issue. Half of the problem is solved when we know and accept what the problem is. The rest is all to go through the motion of stopping and enacting the change.
Get into the Race with yourself
You will be surprised how quickly you can change the pattern! Every habit has a neural signature. When we recognize and change the signature, our patterns change. Since majority of our habits are in the realm of unawareness, to break this awareness is the first thing.
Visualization and meditation are tools to effect the change. Visualizing all the things that led one up to the pattern and putting in place all the positive alternative would help rewire the brain. For example. If one ends up drinking after smoking, visualize not smoking at all and avoiding all the circumstances that stack up to the inevitable regrettable end. Remember all the things that have gone wrong more than the mere bad habit. Let us think of the consequences of the bad habits. If one walks home from work via a pub street, visualize changing the route or change how to you get to work and back. Next day, implement it. The brain does not know the difference between real or imaginary situations. Hence neurons can be wired differently by this visualization practice.
Meditation is a means to improve awareness. However, meditation will help only if one starts it with the intention of self-transformation or transcending these unwanted habits or patterns. Heartfulness is a heart-based meditation system that offers many tools for personal health and spiritual hygiene as well as a practice to effect self-transformation inside out.