words in action — hidden beliefs exposed — part three

 

Richard Rodgers of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song-writing duo was the creative force behind the sentiments in the Sound of Music classic, Something Good, a song that was not in the original stage version but was written additionally for the 1965 film.

Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

soemthing good

It doesn’t take a mind reader to see wisps of underlying beliefs and assumptions rising like a gentle fog from the lyrics of this refrain. The words suggest that “good things happen to good people” or at least a person who does enough good things will be rewarded. What does that mean when bad things happen? And what do the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ really mean?

The good-comes-from-good worldview is interesting but becomes a real mind-twisting, emotional roller-coaster when events are not in line with that particular belief.

Your unscripted words are the proving ground

for what you truly believe.

Beliefs that may be deep and dormant come to life in the following phrases:

“Don’t do that! What will the neighbours think?”

“This job will be the death of me!”

“She makes me so mad. I could just scream!”

“I give and I give and I give. He owes me big time!”

“I can’t believe she didn’t invite me. I must have done something to upset her.”

“This is so hard. If this relationship is really right then it should be easier than this.”

“Flat tire? Just my luck!”

“Don’t get too excited about this good news. The other shoe will drop eventually.”

 

 

 

black eyed susans
While it is easier to discern the beliefs of others through words like these, it is more challenging for us to hear our own words, let alone to understand what they reveal. This is especially true since most of us speak more than we listen. How could be possible be aware of every word we say?

 

To Thine Own Self Be Known

Get to know your personal filters through which all your experiences flow. How have your life events, personality, temperament, significant influences and preferences created those particular filters? How do your filters inform your worldview?

 

Notice and Note

Begin to notice your word choices especially those that are repeated or those attached to significant level of emotion. Keeping some method of recording what you notice handy will be helpful to notice just how often you reveal your hidden beliefs and underlying assumptions through your words.

For the truly brave and bold among you, give someone close to you permission to point out when your words reveal a distorted thinking pattern from part two of this series.

 

 Consider the Source

When you begin to notice pattern of distorted thinking revealed in your words, consider from where this pattern may have originated. Sift through family patterns, significant events and your personal temperament that may have firmly rooted this thought pattern into your belief system.

 

Next time, we will take one particular thought pattern through a process of review and revision to see how we can re-wire our brains to develop new, more useful thought patterns grounded on beneficial beliefs.  Discover one of your patterns to put through the process.

Be well, be aware and stay tuned!

 

 

distorted thoughts and twisted truths – hidden beliefs exposed — part two

 

Now that you have considered some of your beliefs around the larger issues of life and discovered the power of a pause for noticing thoughts from  part one of this series, it is time to look deeper into the twists and turns of a thought process.

You may recall the following breakdown of the hundreds of encounters we have on a daily basis:

Situation
Thought
Feeling
Action
Result

Knowing at which point, how and how often to pause in this process can be a challenging. We have so many thoughts in a day and cannot possibly stop at each one to consider the underlying assumptions lurking behind.

 

But some of our thoughts hold more weight than others. The work is to focus on the ones that move very quickly from a simple, fleeting thought to a full-length movies of epic proportions.  Sit.  Start small.  Look for patterns.

sidewalk cafe

 

Effective Hiding Spots for Funky Thoughts

The following areas are indicators of where twisted truths and distorted thoughts like to hang out and make up stories. Noticing when you are experiencing repetition or intensity in any of these areas is a good start.

 

1. Attachments, Obsessions and Addictions

Beyond some typical addictive activities used for numbness from some real or perceived
discomfort (substance abuse, eating too much or too little, excessive screen time,
compulsive sexual behaviour ), what would make your grasp tighten a little if it was pulled away from you?  The glass or two of wine each evening to take the edge off? A shortened deadline so your finished product could not be perfected? Being right at any cost? Notice.

 

2. Aversions and Avoidances

What do you ignore or avoid at all costs? Confrontation? Self-reflection? Taking
responsibility for your own actions and their consequences? Displeasing someone?
Collaboration? New experiences?  Old, boring experiences? Being alone? Notice.

 

3. Physical Symptoms
What is your body saying to you? Communication from your body could be in the form of pain, pleasure, numbness or a sense of not having any awareness of your body at all. Or it could be through repeated minor conditions, illnesses or even long-term, chronic diseases. What is your body saying in health, dis-ease, in motion and at rest? Notice.

 

4. Overwhelming Emotions
When it seems as if the emotions will swallow you up, what is hiding in that moment? When you find yourself swimming in an ocean of fear or terror, rage, jealousy, boredom, ecstasy or euphoria, obsessive desire, isolation and loneliness or despair, Notice.

 

5. Relationships Obstacles
No relationship is perfect. But what could be learned from looking at those messy sticking points, the raw-nerve moments, the chronic misunderstandings or the inelegant dance moves of two partners out-of-step? At home?  At work?  With friends?  Family?  Notice.

 

6. Feeling Hurt, Stuck or Incompetent
What lurks behind the reaction “what she did really hurt my feelings, how could she do that to me”? What is the “should” belief lingering behind believing that our present situation finds us stuck in a rut or trapped in our own life? What belief is getting its mail forwarded to the hiding spot behind your reaction of feeling incompetent or unqualified?  Notice.

 

Hidden Thought Patterns Revealed in Distortion

We are so competent at distorting thinking that we don’t even recognize we’re doing it. Once you start noticing where your distorted thoughts regularly hide, here are some common cognitive distortions from PsychCentral.com that you might discover there.

 

Filtering: Filtering out the positive and only seeing the positive

Polarized Thinking:  Seeing situations as black & white, with an all or nothing attitude

Over-generalization:  Creating a general outlook based on one incident

Jumping to Conclusions:  Assuming an outcome even without proof

Catastrophizing: Expecting that a disaster will be the outcome

Personalization: Taking the words and actions of others personally

Control Fallacies: Believing you are a victim of fate or that you life is externally controlled

Fallacies of Fairness: Assuming that everything in life is ultimately supposed to be fair

Blaming: Holding others responsible for our pain and discomfort

Shoulds: Having clear rules about how we and all other should behave

Emotional Reasoning: Believing that what we feel is the concrete truth

Fallacy of Change: Believing that people will change if pressured enough to do so

Global Labelling: Using emotionally-laden language to make a global judgement

Always Being Right: Thinking that being wrong is an unthinkable situation

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: Keeping score of giving in hopes of getting back in return

 

That’s a boat-load of noticing to do!

sunday walk sights1

 

Self-care Homework

1.  Continue to practice the pause from part one of this series to help you with the noticing.

2.  Keep a small notebook handy to record what you notice will help you focus on the one or two thought patterns that are causing you the most concern and prevent getting bogged down with trying to deal with too many patterns at once.

 

Writing down what you notice will also help for the next blog post when we discover how the words we use reveal which distorted thoughts we default to most often. Then we will consider the impact of allowing these thought patterns to go unchecked.  

Still ahead, we will work through a process to re-wire our brains by flipping the distorted thoughts on their heads and creating a new result to the troublesome situation.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll see you back here next time!

 

behind the drama curtain

 

The pace was summer slow on this particular day when my sister and I wandered through the grocery store near her home.

nature's bounty

 

Once we agreed that we had all we came for, my sister indicated that she was going to go through the self-check lane with her items. Without even taking a breath, I scrunched up my nose and told her that I was going to go through the express lane where a tired-looking cashier was distractedly checking out a customer in front of me. “The self-check option is too stressful”. My sister lifted her eyebrows, twisted her face incredulously at me and said,

Seriously! How do you make it through the day?”

I am peculiarly sensitive to stress and work hard to avoid it even though I absolutely know that some stress is completely natural and even beneficial for me.

But what was interesting to me was how reactionary I was to this insignificant event and so unaware of the process behind the scenes.  It led me to consider how indicative my quick and unprocessed reaction was of how I handle more compelling situations that hold more meaning.

In this case, I had a whole story-line worked out behind the curtain of my mini-drama. The story starts with how hard my life had been recently, as all my stories do.

When I eventually stopped, took a breath and looked deeper, I discovered a voice behind the choice. The voice informed me that I was burned out from work, that I had had a tiring drive through too much traffic and construction, that I was in an unfamiliar grocery store and that a negative self-check incident from my past would forever be repeated so it was best to just avoid it for the rest of my life.

All of that silent and not-nearly rational chaos came out in a clear declaration from me that I was making a conscious decision about a simple check-out lane.  This minor incident is neither here nor there but what happens during more serious events and difficult situations?

What beliefs lie behind the big and small choices we make? What beliefs inform each of our thoughts, words, emotions and actions? And how do those unexamined beliefs lead to further complications in our lives, if left unexamined?

What is really happening behind these common experiences?

  • Numbness
  • Bravado
  • Resistance
  • Self-sabotage
  • Chronic irritability
  • Temper flares ups
  • Irrational fears and phobia
  • Physical symptoms
  • Stuck in a rut
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Panic

Thoughts, words, emotions and actions that stem from the above are like your car’s indicator lights. The lights come on to get our attention and to let us know that there is a deeper issue to be addressed. Ignoring the indicator lights or focusing only on them are not useful, long-term solutions. The light remains lit and keeps blinking while the underlying problem continues, undiagnosed and untreated. The logical solution is to lift the hood, shine a light on the inside and put what you find in there to the test.

Once we examine the beliefs behind the choices we make, we can be more certain that we are living consciously, with more awareness and a greater level of resilience to life’s stresses.

On Sunday, August 10th, I’ll be facilitating a Building Personal Resilience workshop at Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener, Ontario to explore how the beliefs behind your drama curtain may be impacting your life choices and experiences . You will leave with practical strategies that you can implement even before you leave the workshop.  Join me, if you can!

the beauty of berries

 

.

no chance of rain

 

You know that rare, unexpected moment when you look around you and notice that there are no major crises swallowing up your attention? You know the kind of event that seemingly hijacks your life and derails even your daily plans?  None.

In that rare moment, even if you’re experiencing some confusion, minor loss, life dis-order or chronic busyness, the things you’re facing apparently do not qualify for the master list of significant life stressors so should be more or less manageable according to the creators of the master list.

Quite recently, I realized that over a few weeks surrounded by the unremarkable stress of being a living, breathing conscious person, I became increasingly agitated.   And as my general uber-vigilant disposition was not picking up any external signs of an intense struggle to engage or an insurmountable obstacle to overcome, it seemed that I needed to create some concrete struggle internally.

Suddenly my own arbitrary deadlines rose to commandment status with the added pressure of “someone will be waiting on me for this”.  In my own gospel, Never Leave Anyone Waiting is the second commandment after Do Everything Correctly and followed by Everything Matters. My inclination to set regular goals and write lists became a firm attachment to perfectly imagined outcomes followed by an out-of-balance disappointment when they were not realized. My growing acceptance of “this is the way life is” was recklessly abandoned on the meditation cushion with my settled breathing and mind. Slow, mindful movements were replaced with jittery legs and fidgety fingers. Sleep was rest-less and stillness disappeared.

Remember, there was no genuine crisis. Bounty was all around me.  Relationships, life’s work, passions and creative outlets were all within much more-than-rich and satisfying range. Life, as they say, was and is good.

SAM_2124

On a clear, breezy day with no clouds or chances of rain, am I addicted to the chaos of panic and pressure? Do I need to create drama where there is none in order to feel engaged, relevant and meaningful? Does dis-ease become my default position especially when things are going well?

I don’t know.  Now comes the sitting and listening with a curiosity for what comes up and with no predetermined outcome.  If panic asks to take over, I’ll re-read “the “3 steps to pacify the panic” blog I wrote a few years ago and get un-stuck (again!) from this familiar place.

May your summer be full of self-accepting moments where you never give up on the places where you get repeatedly stuck!

 

 

 

 

carved in stone

 

“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone

creates the urgency for you to prove yourself over and over”

Carol S. Dweck, PhD,

Mindset: A New Psychology of Success and Achievement

The image above is from a friend and gifted sculptor, Steve Fraser, who infuses life into stone with his work to the point that you can almost see the face he created in the stonework smiling, breathing comfortably, ever-growing in awareness and contributing to the world around him.

The reverse process of encasing life in stone does not work so well.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to be on a firm foundation in life with some consistency, some continuity to rest in.  But creating a rock-solid version of the story you tell yourself about the way things really are leaves no room for potential, mystery, poetry, hope, distress, recovery or resilience.  If your truth is already carved out then what’s the point of getting up in the morning?

Resilience in the face of turbulence calls for the courage to be creatively flexible.

What could happen if you would:

  • Listen to the thoughts you think
  • Notice the words you choose to use
  • Become aware of the emotions that arise
  • Recognize how your story sprouts directly from the frequent repetition of these
  • Believe you are absolutely creative enough to re-write several possible story lines
  • Re-script the thoughts and words to craft a stellar ending with killer plot twists!

The story grows, changes, evolves and you have a key role to play in writing the ending.

 

 

made you look

 

What do you see when you’re not looking?

I was recently driving by a large group of high-school students who were milling about and what cut through the uniformity of the bravado in baggy jeans was a young couple, in the midst of the crowd, motionlessly embracing each other.  There was absolutely nothing unique about them so why did they become the focal point?   It may be reasonable to assume that my attention might have also as easily rested on two people engaging in a fist-fight.  Or a solitary individual sitting alone just outside the hub of the group.  Something different.

 

But I still wondered why that particular snapshot of life grabbed my attention which led me to wonder what other things draw me in.

What grabs your attention in the sea of competing images?

Or what has the power to pull your attention from the backdrop of the ordinary?  A sudden noise, bright colour, shiny object, unexpected movement or something incongruous and obviously out-of-place?

And what is it that gets your adrenaline flowing and the nervous system ramped up to buzzing or even just something that tugs the emotions up closer to the surface?

Is it the unexpected eruption of raucous laughter?  Seeing a police car behind you even when you’re driving within the speed limit.  Or an accident on the side of the road.  Is it the unabashed display of emotion at an airport arrival gate?

If we know that these unique interruptions in the monotone daily pattern draws our attention, is there a chance that we use this same technique to get attention from others?

Do we proclaim loudly that we absolutely don’t want any attention but then still send up brightly-coloured smoke signals to be noticed?  Perhaps we stand out in the crowd with:

  •  the flash of over-achieving competence?    
  • the discordant noise of barely-adaptive dysfunction?

 

 

The bigger question is why do we want that attention?

To answer that question, we may need to sit with the following two questions:

 

Who makes you look?

What do you do to make others look?

 

 

words. create. reality?

 

I am a twin.

Well, I guess it is more accurate to say that I was born with a twin. My womb-mate, although technically fraternal, seems identical to me in so many ways yet indescribably different at the same time. Some days it feels as if she’s from a different egg altogether!  Weird.

Twins

Being twins, there’s a slight chance that we were treated more similarly, more alike than just siblings, especially since we were only sold as a set. Two of everything for years on end. Side by side for the pureed peas, high-chair feedings and dressed in matching outfits in every class photo until middle school.

Birthday parties were double the fun, for our guests. But my twin sister and I began to share knowing, resigned glances as the party-ready guests arrived each bearing their single-package gifts knowing that we were about to receive a lot of board games and other items to be shared between us. My twin and I were close, but did not relish spending hours together playing Battleship and Connect Four.

And although, our mother was thoughtfully aware enough to not compare us to each other, the labels we created in our individual self-talk perception journals were very clear. My personal black and white journal from way back then read something like this.

Me: I am the smart, introverted, persevering and sarcastic one.
She: She is the pretty, creative, social and sarcastic one.

I told you there were some similarities. The twin and I have a long-standing joke between us where we will end up sitting side-by-each in a nursing home where the experienced nurses will whisper warnings to the newbies to “stay away from those two, they bite!”

The fifth-grade “I am” statements I had scripted all had some foundation in whatever form truth takes when you’re that young. My twin indeed knew how to successfully socialize and seemed to always have plans with friends. Me, not so much. I preferred to be alone rather than hanging out with friends, chose the library stacks to the sports field and often reading a book over talking with a group of girls who were talking about a group of boys. And her creativity was expressed fluently through art, playing piano by ear or even the way she dressed with a genuine style and flair. Again, me not so much. My untapped creativity was trapped beneath a impenetrable mix of perfectionism and procrastination.

I guess I could say it’s natural to design our own labels but what is the long-term impact? What invisible doors of opportunity in our lives appeared only as walls because the risk involved would only be taken by someone with a different “I am” descriptor than the one we had for ourselves?

Recently, I started listening to my current, daily list of “I am”s and the resounding bass line of repeated phrases is interesting.  And kind of sad.

I am tired.
I am too busy to do any more.
I am too busy to get all of this work done.
I am definitely much too busy for a social life.
I am overwhelmed.
I am done.

Now there’s a snapshot of an exhausted life by design. Morbid much?  Designed to run on the steam of the consistently uttered, out-of-breath “I am”s.

But, in a given moment, am I actually tired? Or am I Danette who may at the moment be feeling the weight of a long day expressing itself as lethargy, the need for a relaxing and nourishing meal and simply a brief break from social interaction and multiple deadlines?

As soon as I say “I am tired”, my body is all too quick to agree. My posture imperceptibly crumples, with shoulders rounding forward and breath getting more shallow by the moment. Just enough though for the mind to get on board. “Yes, I am definitely tired. Exhausted even. I need a break. I work too hard.” Clearly, it must be true because I thought it.

Yet, even contemplating inverting those “I am” statements and converting them into less weighty ones might lead me perilously close to the edge of the forest where the secret life of the ‘be positive’ fairies live and dance with the woodland imps and magic fire-flies. Yikes.

Wouldn’t that just be switching one concrete for another? What about not labeling ourselves at all? But then what would we say when we are compulsively chronicling our lives in every conversation. Yes, yes, yes, I am (truly) acutely aware of the irony of that statement coming from an avid Compulsive Chronicler in blog form. Doesn’t mean I can’t question.

True confession time. I invert. And I am a converter. I recently grabbed my most common doomsday “I am”s and turned them on their heads to come up with something less lethargic, with more ease and a little less damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t.

The experiment is to use intentional word tools to see if I can rewire some of the negative, patterned, unconscious reactions. I may be just blowing sunshine up my own kilt but I’ve felt the weight of bearing these old “I am’s” and would like to see if more light-infused statements will be enough to begin some initial re-programming. I’ll keep you posted. If I start posting as a positive-thinking-will-solve-all-your-problems guru, you have permission to tell me to get my head out of my arse!  I won’t be offended. It would’ve been something my dad would’ve said so I’d respond well to it.

I do know though that things can change because when I look back on my twin-based, matching outfit litany of “I am’s”, I’ve noticed that they have oddly morphed into truthful descriptors for both me and my twin sister even if the expressions of them may appear different in varying situations. We are separately, uniquely all of them.

Not to leave all cynicism in the dust of this power of positive thinking party, I’ve still got money on the fact that the twinster and I will be an acerbic pair of old grannies, sitting in wheelchairs with knitted blankets folded on our laps,complaining about getting another board game for our 90th birthdays.

Twins

3 steps to pacify the panic

As a young student, I quite enjoyed going to school. Despite my social awkwardness (and maybe because of it), I was able to achieve relative academic success especially in tasks that allowed me to work alone. I had never considered myself slow to process information but I do recall that the subject where my comprehension was the lowest and slowest was the one that coincidentally caused the most personal panic. Math! Ugh!

Math seemed much more like a foreign language to me than French ever did and, for some reason, Math had the added element of time pressure.

 

Pen en papier / Pen and paper

I can still recall sitting round-shouldered over my math facts sheet and gripping my pencil too firmly with sweaty fingers while a humourless teacher/ drill sargeant strutted through the room with stopwatch and counting down the time remaining. I’d quite literally freeze. Letting my head fall on my desk, I’d be numb, barely breathing until the litany of stories about why I was stuck began. “I’m stupid”. “I can’t learn Math”. “He is a terrible teacher.” And the downward cycle of fear and failure was in full gear leading nowhere fast.

This past week, I wasn’t working on math but in the process of breaking old patterns, learning new skills and some self-imposed due dates and deadlines, I was suddenly back in 7th grade at my desk writing a Math test. I did not enjoy being thirteen years old the first time so was not about to re-live that age of adolescent angst as a, for the most part, high-functioning adult. But ever-so-subtly, the disquieting panic began building until it developed into the full-fledged discomfort of a houseguest that would not leave!

After a few days in a deep-freeze of panic, I decided to warm my icy nerves with three steps to begin the thawing process and move me from overwhelmed to okay. Perhaps these steps will help others who are prone to panic when their time seems to be running out.

1. Observe Your Body

Observing takes a commitment to being still. Even with deadlines looming and the expectations of others in the balance, noticing where the panic is settling in your body will not be clear in the midst of fussing and fidgeting. While indulging in activities intended to numb or distract, your awareness to your body’s sensations is in slumber-mode. Sit comfortably and do a slow, simple body-scan. Begin at the top of your head and move downwards. Where are you tight? Where is there discomfort? For me it’s a deep buzzing sensation in my solar plexus. It’s a constant heavy hum that makes taking a deep calming breath challenging.

2. Breathe To Your Capacity

This breathing exercise works best when you are lying on your back stretched out. If you feel that you don’t have time for this exercise, check to see how much time has become unproductive or lost to the frozen-feet syndrome. Once on your back, you may feel a temporary increase in heart rate or a feeling of being exposed. This is common. Breathe as naturally as possible to give your body, mind and breath a chance to settle.

      • Place your hands on your lower abdomen with middle fingers on either side of your navel. Breathing slowly and evenly through your nose, fill your belly with air, allowing your lower abdomen to rise and separate your middle fingers from each other. Exhale slowly and evenly through your nose, allowing your belly to collapse and your middle fingers to come back closer together. Do this for three full breaths. Return to natural breathing.

 

      • Next, place your hands at the base of your rib cage with the webbing between your thumb and first finger on your side body. Thumbs will point toward your back and fingers will be on the front of your abdomen. Using the same method of nose breathing, inhale slowly and evenly until your ribs expand sideways allowing your side body to rise into the webbing between your thumbs and first fingers. Do this three times deeply then return to natural breathing.

 

      • Third, place pads of your fingers directly below your collarbone and find the tender spots between your collarbone and uppermost part of your rib cage. Using the same method of breathing, inhale slowly and evenly to fill your abdomen all the way up to your finger tips. Work to see if you can cause your fingertips to rise slightly with your breath. Repeat three times deeply then return to a regular breathing pattern.

 

If you feel comfortable with this process, the next step would be to do draw the breath to all three places in one breath starting with the lower abdomen, to the side body, then to the upper chest. But even simply doing the first step of three deep breaths in each area brings me immediately to a state of calm. And being calm is necessary for the next step to pacifying the panic.

3.  Prove-Proof Your Space

I once read a book by Anne Lamott who was giving advice to writers whose tendency to self-edit resulted in low productivity. She suggested putting the “voices” that make up your inner critic in a mason jar and screwing the lid on tightly until the task at hand is completed. Choose any voice that is asking you to prove your worth to them. These voices may be clearly attached to a person, past or present, or may be a collective voice of all those who caused you to question your value. If it helps, keep an actual jar in front of you as a token of your determination to quiet the panic that comes from constantly trying to prove yourself.

This week, after I noticed the jackhammer hum in my solar plexus, the telltale sign for me that panic wants to keep me stuck, I did the three-part breathing exercise then I jarred the voice of my inner critic. Since then, the fuzzy-headed feeling has dissipated, the spiral of negative thinking has ceased and the frozen feet have thawed.  And for the moment, I am unstuck.

Meditation

This has become my standard practice and you may find that one or more of the steps works for you. Or maybe you have your own methods. Do tell!

How do you pacify your panic?

 

pattern interrupted

 

We each contain within us a multitude of patterns and unconscious reactions. They’re often thinly disguised in thoughts and phrases such as “I can’t help it, this is who I am”.  Or perhaps they come to light in a moment of “Why do I always do that?” or when we catch ourselves consistently and insistently complaining about a particularly annoying person or event.

But what if a pattern is no longer beneficial and even becomes a hindrance to our growth and prevents us living freely, then what?  What if a pattern is trapping us in our own Groundhog Day experience? Or if it becomes a pleasingly patterned yet hard-to-penetrate and limiting brick wall?

Patterns

The point is to interrupt the pattern. Whenever a pattern is interrupted, there is a moment of awareness (often accompanied by a moment of panic). That interruption gives you a moment to see or exercise another possibility.–Ken McLeod, Buddhist teacher and writer

Four Steps to Pattern Interruption

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with using these four steps in response to the regular fall-out of my own pattern of staying hyper-busy/ compulsively over-working.

1.  Notice
2.  Uncover
3.  Re-Write
4.  Repeat

Notice
This may be easier for some patterns than others.  For me, the “work” pattern has become clear to me by way of a frantic mind, an oft-weakened immune system and chronic irritation that results when I work to exhaustion.  According to Ken McLeod, interrupting the pattern requires pausing just before the pattern is repeated instead of staying in a trance.  This will be a challenge since my tendency to overwork sort of steamrolls right over pauses.  Meditation has definitely been helpful in disengaging the pause-crushing steamroller and creating more space for noticing.

Uncover
Using the 5 Why’s to uncover the underlying story that informs my pattern has been quite useful for me.  Sometimes I can even rationalize up until almost 10 why’s.

I can’t stop working right now, I’m too busy!
Why?

Because I have this job/ task that must/should be finished.
Why?

Because I’ve already started and it is easier to just push through and finish it before I take a break.
Why?

Because I’d feel better, once I was resting, to not have to see the unfinished task in front of me.  I’d be much more relaxed if it was just finished.
Why?

Because I’d feel guilty sitting down when there’s work still to be done.
Why?

Because I feel valuable when I am productive and get work finished. My value stems from how much I accomplish.

BINGO!

My hidden story is that I believe my value is based on how much I accomplish so my value, in my mind, goes up the harder I work. Clearly there’s a deeper back-story there but, in order to maintain focus, let’s just leave that for when there’s time for self-reflection later and now consider the next step.

Re-Write
The story of “work = value” is an interesting one but is far from liberating and not one that I want to have as a silent director of my actions and decisions. Time for a re-write of that old script.  New script says “Working or not, productive or not, I have value”.  


Repeat
To make even a dent in the ancient story I’ve held to as truth for so long, this new script will need to be be expressed verbally every day until it becomes the new pattern.  New decisions will be based on the freedom of choice, not within the confines of a claustrophobic story.

I’m famously stubborn so this process might take longer for me than it does you.  I already caught myself pushing stoically through to the end of writing this post without taking a break when my mind and body were asking for one.  And this is only one of my patterns!

One pattern, one step at time.