Breaking the Patterns
They say that an uncluttered living space helps you have an uncluttered mind. It’s a great theory, one I could definitely manage to a great degree as a single gal, living in a tiny apartment by myself. Fast forward a few years to marriage, a toddler, multiple moves including from one Province to another, and a super busy life and let’s just say that uncluttered doesn’t exactly describe my living space!
I grew up with an obsessive parent who had a super regimented life. Groceries bought on Tuesday only, laundry day was Friday only, floors to be vacuumed every day starting at a certain point in the house, stuff like that. It drove me absolutely batty to life like that and I swore that I would never be that way, and yet as my life went on I found myself exhibiting OCD type symptoms myself. Looking back I think I adopted many obsessive behaviours as a way to control some aspect of my life, which, from the start had been very much out of my control. In my mind I created a “right way” of doing dishes for example, and it literally made me anxious, nervous and angry to have someone else wash dishes the “wrong way.”
When we repeat a belief with a negative basis aimed at ourselves such as “I am a terrible dancer” we create that negative belief. If we reinforce that negative belief by constantly saying it, whether it is to ourselves and/or to others, we reinforce that negative belief to the point that it becomes true to us, and we can make it true for others as well.
Obsessive behaviour patterns work in the same way. For example, “The dishes are only done right if they are done my way” is a belief with a negative basis. By repeating that to myself all the time, I had reinforced my belief to the point that seeing anyone else doing dishes in any other way that “my way”, resulted in an experience of anxiety, nervousness and anger.
I was at a point in my life that I was working on myself and what I wanted out of my life, when I decided that my behaviours were not acceptable or fair to me, or to anyone who was around me. I decided that for me, my behaviours were too hard to live with. I spent a great deal of time reprogramming myself. I didn’t know it then, but I guess I was practicing self-hypnosis techniques, both to fuel the behaviours and then to help myself reduce them or remove them.
Breaking the patterns consisted of creating new ways of thinking and reinforcing that thinking in a positive way by repeating positive messages for myself. For example, for dish washing I would say to myself “My way is one of many ways to wash dishes. It’s okay if someone washes them a different way.” It took time, and truly at first I could not watch anyone wash dishes! I had to walk away from the visual of it but that is okay, it was part of the process.
If you are trying to break a pattern, consistent, regular, positive reinforcement is what is needed. Tell it to yourself, repeat it others (I am a great dancer!) and know that sometimes you will have to walk away or deal with increased anxiety, or other symptoms but it will get better. What you are doing is reprogramming a belief and that takes time and patience with yourself.
We are all a work in progress. To this day, I still shake my head at the way some people wash dishes, but I have learned to just let it go. I still prefer an ordered, clean space but I also know that sometimes, at some points in life, that is just not possible, and that is okay.
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