Have you ever felt like you’re your own worst enemy?
I have! But this whole idea doesn’t seem so dark and ominous anymore. I’ve figured out what’s going on when I’m having a self-sabotaging moment...or when I’m about to! And let me tell you...this knowledge is SO freeing! It’s been so much easier to stop beating myself up over thoughts, actions, in-action--all the things that really loved to run circles in my mind.
I’m no Zen master yet...but I’ve figured out a lot of things that help bring greater clarity and peace!
If you get lost in rumination about the past or anxiety over the future, if you find it hard to take the action you want to take or find yourself taking actions that are the opposite of what you really want, what may be healthiest for you, the first helpful step towards clarity and peace is understanding the human mind.
This means knowing that what you experience is the experience of all humans. Sure, everyone has their own unique struggles, but everyone also gets lost in the mind or becomes unconsciously influenced by its inner workings. It’s the way we’re wired.
The Inner-workings of the mind that make you feel some type of way...
You may know the mind is made up of the conscious and unconscious. What you may not know is that the unconscious mind makes up approximately 90% of the whole self. This means that 90% of what you say, do think and feel is driven by all the suppressed or repressed emotions, memories and experiences you’ve gathered about the world and yourself throughout this lifetime and before. I’m just going to focus on this lifetime for today!
The unconscious brain has some pretty major roles:
It stores memories
It is the domain for all the emotions
It takes everything personally
It organizes all of your memories
It represses memories with unresolved negative emotions
It presents repressed memories to your conscious mind for resolution and release of negative emotions
It works to preserve the body at all costs
It’s pretty cool that all this is going on in the mind and that the mind is endlessly working to keep you safe, preserve your body, and protect you from what it perceives is threatening.
It’s not so cool when all the stored unresolved stuff plays out in our waking life as self-destructive patterns, addictions, lash-outs, emotional avoidance, manipulative, or passive aggressive behavior. It’s at this point that we feel like we’re our own worst enemy, where we’re overcome by negative thoughts and then emotions. And where the repressed stuff sabotages our peace and happiness and often the peace and happiness of others in our sphere. A lot of these patterns, created from unresolved emotions, play out in relationships, and unfortunately present most clearly in the relationships with those we love most.
The really cool thing is that people don’t need to stay in this place of stuckness, repeating hurtful patterns and/or struggling through life. They don’t have to watch (in retrospect) as patterns play out in relationship after relationship or in the same relationships over the span of years! They don’t have to replay events over and over wishing they had reacted differently.
Awareness is the Key!
Knowing how the mind works can make it easier to notice, accept and/or reject the thoughts that come up. A lot of times thoughts come up that are not helpful and we simply don't need to listen to them or assign any meaning to them at all. It’s easier not to assign meaning or judgement when you know the thoughts are just thoughts. They’re not necessarily true.
It also helps to know that the thoughts and feelings that come up repeatedly are often linked to unresolved issues from the past, meaning that if you lash out, avoid, respond inappropriately, hurt yourself or others it’s likely because there’s unresolved pain inside of you.
For example, when you understand that you push partners away because childhood you at one time felt abandoned, you can stop pushing partners away by acknowledging this old pain and being honest about how it’s still playing out in your life. You bring the pattern to light so it no longer has an unconscious hold over your reality.
As you become aware of your own unconscious patterns, bring them into consciousness, expose them and accept them, they’re no longer as threatening, saddening, or maddening as they once were! And best of all, once you are aware, you can choose the responses that honor your dignity and the dignity of others. You can create space between the triggering event and the response so you have more time to choose a helpful one.
Once you know what your mind is doing and start to explore your own patterns, repressed emotions and experiences, their influence loses grip. Instead of rejecting these parts of you, you can be your own best friend by becoming bffs with your subconscious.
To become bffs with your subconscious, you want to continually recognize that your subconscious mind is only working to protect you and to keep you safe. You build trust with your mind and ultimately with yourself by knowing the mind and knowing that it seeks to do you no harm.
When a trigger situation arises, you may recognize you feel hurt, left out, misunderstood, unseen, unheard, etc. You can recognize that these feelings are likely from the past and don’t have to affect the way you respond in the present. Your subconscious may want to keep you safe by reverting to old patterns like avoidance, passive aggressive behavior, tantrums, unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs, sex, alcohol, workaholism, or food. But knowing your triggers and your patterns, you can choose differently.
And instead of beating yourself up for having these patterns, you again recognize that the mind is only working for what it believes is your best interest. And the patterns are here to teach you something about who you are and how you’re supposed to evolve. Dan Millman explains this latter idea really well in his book The Life You Were Born to Live. That’s another great place to gain insight around some of your unique patterns.
Another Key is Compassionate Curiosity
Ultimately, the key to healing these old wounds is compassionate curiosity. Curiosity allows for the release of judgement as you practice compassion for your mind and all the “crazy” things it does--that really aren’t crazy at all.
If you feel you don’t have childhood wounds, there may be ones you haven’t been ready to face yet or that you formed in your teen years or in early adulthood. When you recognize that current hurts come from these past experiences where you were younger or more innocent, you might find it easier to be compassionate and understanding towards the younger self than you are with your adult self. With the adult self, we often respond with anger or harshness because the adult “should have it all together ” or “should have learned the lesson by now.” However this response only perpetuates the hurt. Once your response is one of compassion instead of scorn, blame, anger, guilt, shame, etc., you can begin to release this hurt.
The myth of needing to “have it all together” as adults only encourages us to suppress emotions that need to be released. Adults are allowed to cry and break down too--as long as we’re not causing others or ourselves harm. You can reject that nonsense that tells you to suck it up. Instead, know that it’s braver and more courageous to face whatever has a hold on you still and let it go.
You can let go in so many healthy ways: cry, journal, exercise, walk away, scream into a pillow. Find what works for you. When you let go and flow with the emotions that come by feeling them without judgement, you’ll find that you increasingly accept who you are and all the experiences that make you you, wounds and all. And you probably know, but fully accepting who you are enables you to fully accept and love others in the way we all deserve.
Identifying Your Own Patterns & Triggers
When you’re ready to identify your own patterns, reflect on the times in your life when you reacted maybe violently or aggressively to a situation, or reflect on situations that you completely withdrew from when you felt threatened or uncomfortable. For example, I had a partner who whenever we experienced a conflict, would withdraw without ever working towards any resolution. His protective response was: avoid.
Likewise, think about any times that your reaction to an event was irrational or disproportionate to the situation. From the time that the unconscious wound begins, from the time that emotion was first felt, every time you have a new experience that triggers that emotion, the emotion’s strength builds. Envision a chain reaction. When you experience a similar event that brings up the same wound 20 years later, you have 20 years worth of stacked emotional experiences responding to the current event.
Finally, notice the times when you reach for distractions to numb a feeling. How often do you do this? Is it the same emotion triggering the same behavior or distraction over and over? You may detect a pattern like feeling overwhelmed and self-soothing with wine or attempting to fill a feeling of wanting to be loved with sex.
Once you’ve identified your patterns, there’s quite a few ways to ensure they no longer have a hold on your present or future. Along with awareness, you can actively work to clear any emotions or limiting decisions that are influencing your present life. Many healing modalities exist to help resolve old wounds so you remember your inherent wholeness. I’ll talk about more of these modalities in a later blog!
As a practitioner of Evolved Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Quantum Time Release, I’ve been able to help others clear out these past limitations and I have been able to experience the effects of the techniques first-hand in clearing out some of my own past stuff.
I’ve found that experiences which once brought up a lot of pain or discomfort for me no longer do. I’m able to access memories of past hurts but not experience the depth or length of emotional charge I once had around these experiences.
Time helps reduce emotional charge, but it doesn’t necessarily heal the wound. If we don’t actively clear out the pain around experiences, the pain will likely get logged right back into our subconscious and into our bodies as well--and who knows how this wound will show up again in the future? It may not show up in a helpful way.
You can ensure that you’re your own best friend instead of your own worst enemy. Start with awareness, practice forgiveness along with compassionate curiosity and then actively clear out what no longer serves you. I liken the clearing process to spring cleaning! Our minds and bodies just get overloaded with junk or outdated artifacts. They need to be cleaned out so we feel all refreshed and clear.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to clear the past, reduce emotional charge around troubling life events, or even want more guidance in figuring out your own patterns, I’d love to connect with you and support you in this exploration! Bringing patterns to light provides some of the most freeing ah-ha moments we have in our lifetime!
You can connect with me via Instagram @wildpeacefulfree, the website forum or book a free consult call to learn more!
What patterns have you identified already?