Clever Squirrel’s 8 Steps to Stop Repeating Destructive Patterns

Smart people sometimes do not-so-clever things. We know who we are. After all, we’re bright, right? We’ve already figured out that we’ve hit the repeat button a few too many times with less than satisfying results. Maybe we’re in the wrong job, and then we’re in another wrong job, relationship, town, group. Maybe we have toxic friends. Whatever it is, it saps our energy and keeps us from living healthy, fulfilling lives.

I did all of those listed above over and over again for many years. It took the perspective of time, distance, self-reflection, and therapy to recognize the tendencies, and even more time, distance, self-reflection and therapy to change. But here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Awareness – First we have to see, and admit to, the problem
  2. Desire –  Then we must passionately want change
  3. Help – We must seek out sources of support, self-help books, therapists
  4. Trigger – And uncover the deeper issues that prompt the behavior
  5. Courage –  Then we need to be brave enough to revise our responses
  6. Practice –  And commit to making different choices
  7. Forgive – We must show kindness to ourselves when we slip backward
  8. Transform – The goal is to become a whole, happy person

Easy, no. Possible, yes.

There’s a catch. Most of the patterns that run our lives are written in the subconscious. That’s why, in the case of relationships for instance, what appears on the surface to be a radical new choice becomes the same problem with a different face. Have you been there? Doesn’t it feel like betrayal? Have you ever said: And I thought this time I had it right!

Some things we can change. Others are embedded in our DNA so indelibly that nothing short of complete abstinence will suffice. It’s recognizing those addictions that is the most challenging, and I’m not talking about alcohol or drugs. We can be addicted to shopping, to overwork, to google, gaming, gambling, to love.

After therapy I was convinced I could recognize the devil in the bushes and avoid making the same mistakes. Wrong. I stumbled right back into misery. But that was the wake-up call I needed. For stubborn issues, or lets call them what they are, addictions, number six on the list becomes: Abstain.

Hard truth. But accepting the truth, no matter how hard, and making those adjustments to my behavior gave me freedom. For me it was love. I believe in love. I’ve always believed in love. But time and again my programming attracted mates with patterns that were mutually destructive.

After five marriages and five divorces, I am committed to a single life. I don’t trust myself to ‘get it right’ and I don’t want to put me, or anyone else through that heartache again. But the decision has allowed me freedoms I wouldn’t have experienced as a partnered woman. It has forced me to self-actualize, something we were really into in the 60’s and 70’s when Maslow’s, Hierarchy of Needs, was all the rage. Self-actualization was at the pinnacle of the pyramid. When all other needs were met, a person was poised to achieve her full potential.

I haven’t given up on love, but I’ve redirected it. My life oozes with loving, healthy connections, none of which are romantic. (Romance is a bit of an illusion anyway, isn’t it? Smoke and mirrors? Hormones? Chemicals? It feels so good until it doesn’t.) Instead of pouring all that energy into someone else, I’ve gotten to know who I am, what I want, and what I need to thrive, and I give myself that.

indexThere’s an Indonesian proverb that I’ve claimed as my own. Sepandai-pandai tupai melompat kadang-kadang jatuh juga. It means: The clever jumping squirrel also sometimes falls down. Or paraphrased further: Everyone makes mistakes. And we do. But the really clever squirrel figures out how not to make the same ones over and over again.


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