Recognising behavioural patterns and how to break them!

Updated: May 6, 2020

A pattern can be a beautiful thing, or it can weave a weblike comfort zone that is ingrained in our subconscious that keeps us stuck reenacting the same behavioural patterns from our childhood.

This deep-seated pattern of behaviour plays out in our cognitions, thoughts and behaviours and can masquerade as crappy relationships and toxic situations, which we subconsciously attract and reenact because we have not healed this part of ourselves.

“So often I see people taking the same behavioural patterns from their previous relationship into the next one, often blaming the other person for the failure of the relationship and not taking ownership of their part to play in it.”

The only way a pattern is going to break is if you begin to realise the pattern, where it stems from (i.e., childhood/parent’s relationship) and do the work to heal that part of yourself.

It can be incredibly frustrating when you keep attracting the same types of people and circumstances into your life, feeling powerless to be able to change it. 

Carl Jung, renowned psychology expert came up with the term ‘inner child’ which refers to how our personalities developed through our childhood experiences.

In this sense, our inner child is said to live within our unconscious and impacts the way we interact with the world as adults.

How do you know whether you have a wounded inner child? Do you have past trauma and did this occur in childhood?

Here are some signs that might indicate you have a wounded inner child:

1. Deep down you feel there is something wrong with you.

2. When venturing out of your comfort zone, you experience anxiety.

3. You’re a people-pleaser.

4. You’re a chameleon when it comes to your identity and you morph and change in different social settings and interactions with people.

5. You deliberately seek conflict with the people around you.

6. You’re a hoarder of people, things, emotions and you struggle letting go.

7. You feel inadequate.

8. Your inner critic (voice) is hardwired to continually remind you of these feelings of inadequacy.

9. You struggle to forgive, are a perfectionist and rigid.

10. You have difficulty trusting people and have a hard time with commitment.

11. You have deep abandonment issues which means you cling to relationships no matter how toxic they are.

These thoughts, cognitions and behaviours may have resulted from, having a parent that withholds affection, being a child of divorce, being hit or smacked, having your mouth washed out with soap, sexual and physical abuse, name calling, humiliation, neglect, being left alone for long periods of time, etc. There are many more instances of trauma that can impact how you interact with others as an adult. 

Here are four exercises that you can do which help to heal inner child wounds:

1. Reconnect with your inner child and treat them with kindness and love

Say some nurturing phrases. Try an ancient Hawaiian Healing phrase called a Ho’oponopono. The word Ho’oponopono means ‘to make right’.  The phrase involves these words: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

Repeat this 10x daily in the mirror for 30 days and check in to see how you feel.

2. Look at pictures of yourself as a child

Get familiar with what you looked like as a child. This is extremely important in inner child work as this is the ‘you’ that you are speaking to.

3. Think back on the things that brought you joy and happiness

Reconnect with things that made you happy as a child. Find the things that brought you joy and engage in play.

Did you love to draw, paint, blow bubbles, run around in circles until you felt dizzy, play hide and seek?  Pay attention to the feelings that come up for you as you engage in this play activity that brought you so much happiness and enjoyment as a child.

4. Go on a journey through meditation with your inner child

A meditation journey: close your eyes and breathe deeply into the belly, relax and allow yourself to witness any thoughts that arise as you ask, “Dear inner child, when was the first time I encountered trauma?”

Pay attention to any thoughts or feelings that arise, as this might not be revealed to you, as your inner child might not be ready or willing to do so. Remember to be patient and loving during this process. It’s important that your inner child feels safe and secure. If your inner child does not want to reveal this to you, that is okay, be gentle and kind with your inner child and embrace them. You can repeat this question a few times gently to see if they are ready to open up, if not, you can always try again later.

This process requires some level of meditation experience, so if you haven’t had any experience, seek a counsellor or psychotherapist that can support you through this process. It is important for you to feel safe and secure while working through your inner child wounds. 

Gradually, with time, recognising the pattern and healing that pattern through therapy and exercises that cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness, the pattern will break.

From this understanding of yourself, you will begin to see a secureness within that you have not previously experienced. You will start to realise that those behaviours and relationships originally served a purpose, either developed as a behaviour you had been shown from your parents and their relationship, or that you adopted as a child to protect yourself.

Our vulnerable inner child cannot hope to have an adult relationship playing out the behaviours of their childhood in adulthood.

Be safe and remember to take care.
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