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How To Break Bad Patterns In Life

How To Break Bad Patterns In Life

Tricia Stehle, LMSW

Have you ever said to yourself, ‘why do I keep having the same thing happen to me over and over again?’ ‘Why do I keep falling into the exact same kind of unhealthy relationship time and time again?’ ‘Why can I never do (X, Y, Z)?’.

Chances are, if you have been alive on this earth for any length of time, you have asked yourself this at least once or twice. I certainly know I have. As a therapist who has heard countless life stories over the years, this is one of the most common things I get asked, in one- way shape, or form, is, ‘how can I stop repeating the same mistakes?’

First, let me break bad life patterning down into the 3 most common categories:

  1. You have had a particular goal or goals in your life for a long time, but just can’t seem to achieve it/them.
  2. You are always telling yourself that you are not good enough.
  3. You keep falling into codependent relationships and/or friendships.

​No matter which of these 3 you may be experiencing (and it could be all 3 of them at the same time), these toxic, destructive patterns zap the life out of you. It feels like you are constantly running around, chasing your tail, and trying to catch your breath, and you are often left feeling depressed, exhausted, and questioning what is wrong with you, that is not wrong with others.

Now, let me offer up some ideas on how to start breaking free of these unhealthy patterns (***please note, that these ideas are by no means exhaustive, and if you are feeling that you are in need of more in depth work, and/or the patterns are creating more and more struggles in life, and depression, please contact a therapist such as myself that can help***).

  1. Usually what I find with folks that have had a goal(s) set for a long time, and that they are not achieving it, is that they have set their sights too high, and too global. For example, let’s say that your goal is to run a marathon. You have had this goal for at least 10 years, and it still has not happened. What I usually see, is that the individual is not taking it in baby steps. They go all out, too fast, and so then what ends up happening is they quit. Instead of setting small, realistic, perhaps weekly/monthly goals of gradually increasing the mileage. The problem in society as I see it, pertaining to this bad pattern, is that we are taught to make ‘it happen as quickly as possible’ (whatever it is). We are not inherently trained to break it down-whatever goal we have in mind, and make it happen gradually.
  2. No matter what goes wrong, you find yourself telling yourself, that it must be something wrong with you, or that you did something wrong, or are flawed in some way, that things didn’t work out. (Whatever it may be). When this happens, instead of sitting with those destructive thoughts, and allowing them to continue dictating your life, get out pen and paper, and write down all the positive things about you. Do you have a talent that others don’t have? Something about you that you are always getting compliments on? Anything. Just write them down, carry the list with you, read it out loud -over and over if you have to, until the self-loathing voices settle down. This will start to create healthier thought patterns on how you view yourself.
  3. Number 3 is probably the most common of the 3 that I hear on a regular basis. These are the relationships, where you are constantly giving more than you are getting. The ones that leave you bitter, and resentful, and feeling like you are doomed in this department. Once again, get out pen and paper, and make 2 lists: The first one, is where you write down those people in your life that are zapping the life out of you, and the awful traits that they have in common. The second, should be of those individuals in your life, that you enjoy being around, you do not feel robbed of energy, there is a balancing factor there, and you are not constantly feeling like you are doing all the work. Write down the traits that these persons have in common. Then, in moving forward, you can start to gradually wean the unhealthy ones from your life and spend more time with the ones that are good for you. Going forward, keep the lists, and as new people enter into your life, you can refer to those lists as a reference tool, and the minute a person displays one of those negative traits, you will be able to get out of it sooner-rather than later.

All of the above suggestions do take time, and patience, but the time and patience these take is a fraction of the energy that bad patterns deduct from your life.

Again, if you feel more extensive work is needed beyond this list, do not hesitate to contact a therapist such as myself that can help. Happy Summer to everyone!

About the Author


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