Revisiting Old Patterns

"A bridge can still be built while the bitter waters are flowing beneath.”
-Anthony Liccione

It is almost the New Year and a great time for reflection. How was this year for us, and what did we learn, what caused us to stumble a little or a lot, what was good for us, and what do we wish for in the coming year?

It is the coming to an end of something, and the beginning of something new that we create for ourselves. It is colder out and the days are shorter; a great time to spend more time with ourselves in self-reflection. As we do so, what comes up for us? One thing I find very helpful is to ask myself what old patterns and old ways of being came up for me this year for me to look at for my personal growth?

One of the things that came up for me was the passing of my father and the coming together of my whole family for us to be together, mourn him and celebrate what he was for us and who he was as a person. I found that I was glad for his passing. I was complete with him in myself, had done much work around me and him, and saw him as completely as possible with open eyes. What surprised me was what was brought out in me and in my siblings in response to his passing and to our being together. Talk about old patterns coming out… it happened in spades. There is nothing like reunions, weddings, funerals, and religious celebrations to bring out these old habits of being and of being together. Families and groups develop ways of interacting with each other. We learn tacitly and openly how to act through our parents and elders. We become influenced by their behaviors and beliefs and we embrace them without even realizing that we are doing so.  We grow up, we leave home, we think we have grown, and in many ways we have, and then we all get-together. How many of you have experienced this kind of phenomenon in your family and circles?

As we all came together to celebrate, to share feelings, to be with each other and to remember our father, we also came together filled with blind unresolved feelings within us in terms of how we related with each other when we were growing up. It is like when our children grow up and leave the house, go to college, etc., and then they come home to visit and often they begin to act in ways they acted or reacted with us when they were younger and living at home. Often there is one child in a family who is the one who is or feels rejected and different than their siblings. When I was growing up I often felt that way. I thought that things had changed and had even consciously forgotten how things were with us and how we interacted with each other…until…..we got together for the memorial.

Not only was I told I was difficult because I would have liked a different weekend to celebrate his life, and it didn’t match theirs, on the day of the memorial as we began to sit down to begin, the first row which is reserved for the siblings was filled with 2 of my siblings and their children and there was no room for me in that row with my siblings. I sat in the second row separate from them. Later that day one sister brought in some things of our father’s for us all to go through together, and as my husband and I were cleaning up where no one asked if they could help us, they started to go through everything with their children, left everything they didn’t want in a messy heap on my living room floor, and just left. They had to go. Were they consciously rejecting me, leaving the mess and the rejects for me as a symbolic gesture of our family dynamics? No, they were unconscious. Was I hurt? Yes, at first I was…and angry. Then as I sorted through my reactions and feelings I began to see what a gift this was…for me to see how it was at home for me while I was growing up. I am no longer a little girl, although small in stature, and I can take care of myself and take responsibility for myself and my feelings as I couldn’t when I was young. And I could see this as a painful gift, but gift none the less.

Did these old patterns come up for me and my old way of reacting to them? Yes, they did. Yet this time, I wasn’t a slave or victim to them and very quickly recognized and moved through them, seeing me and my siblings in a clearer light. We all have times like these in our lives. They don’t go away, but we do get much quicker and more facile at moving through them to a better place in us and a much larger image of what is actually taking place. It is not about us. We are lovely, flawed, human beings all in here learning together.

Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Big Results:

Close your eyes for a minute or two and breath deeply. See yourself in your mind's eye sitting somewhere beautiful and that has meaning to you. This could be in a field of wildflowers, your favorite place or garden, your safe place, and so on. See you now as clearly as possible. Ask yourself what pattern you see yourself repeating over and over again. Take your time with this. Usually, there is some pattern. It could even be a repeating dream. Now, what usually triggers your pattern that you see repeating? This time, as you see the trigger, instead of doing what you usually do, consciously take yourself in your mind's eye through a new internal process. Walk and talk yourself through a different way of acting and not reacting, but acting. Take yourself through it step by step as an athlete does as he/she is visualizing themselves through their game or activity. After you have completed the whole process, open your eyes. Then get a piece of paper and pen and write out the process you just saw yourself complete. Keep it by your bed and read it before you go to sleep at night for the next week.

Let me know, if you feel like it, how this exercise goes for you and what you might have learned from it.

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