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Redirecting the cascading effects of pain

A few years ago, whenever I experienced rejection I felt like I was being stabbed in the heart. Immediately, my thoughts spiraled into an extremely negative and hurtful place as I felt physically pained.

My inner critic scolded me as I froze, "What's wrong with me? Why doesn't anyone want to hire me? I'm never going to be good enough...I can't go on like this."

My hurtful thoughts fed feelings of inadequacy and despair. And I became deflated and despondent.

My plans for the day went out the window. I couldn't concentrate or think clearly. I'd be overcome by crying fits. And I was besieged by self-doubt.

Rejection completely derailed me. And since us self-employed folk are essentially always looking for a new job, I experienced debilitating effects from rejection regularly.

Something had to change! So, I took myself through the Pattern Rewrite process.

While the first three steps helped me to shorten the negative impacts of rejection, it took me a while to turn my limiting pattern into an empowering practice.

Somedays I would be able to brush it off. Others I would invest an hour or more intentionally working to interrupt my patterned threat response of freeze. My unconscious reaction remained present, which was draining.

Since my patterned threat response was related to childhood trauma, it was deeply etched into my neural pathways. This was hard but important work I committed to doing. It took time and concerted effort - I was not an overnight success at rewriting this pattern.

There's a saying, neurons that fire together wire together. That's why certain stimuli quickly cascades into a patterned threat response. For me, rejection led to feelings of pain which equaled freeze.

The final step in rewriting a patterned threat reaction is Redirection. A pattern is rewritten when a new and empowering habit is established.

Repetition is key for habit formation.

To support myself in fully rewriting this pattern I choose to practice the pattern interrupts that worked best for me. Those were Heart-Focused Breathing and self-compassion. I practiced them daily regardless of the presence of a threat.

A little while later, I received a disappointing email (rejection served with a bunch of compliments is still triggering). As I felt the trigger ripple through my body, I raised my hand to my heart while slowing my breathing. My first thought was, "It's ok. I will find a way to be a peace with this decision."

My second thought was, "OMG, this is so cool! I effectively rewrote this patterned threat response into an empowering practice" (Because I'm still a dork).

The thing about rewriting patterns is that you cannot eliminate the feeling. Rejection is a common trigger. For me it invokes pain.

Bernie S. Siegel once said, "We cannot go through life without pain...what we can do is choose how to use the pain life presents to us."

We all possess the power to chose how we respond to the feelings triggers invoke within us. After all, it is certain feelings our lizard brain reacts to in these critical moments not our rational thoughts. When we are in a Patterned Threat Response, it is because the limbic section of the brain, which stores our emotional experiences, sensed a threat and engaged the primitive brain to "preserve and protect" our self-interests.

Of course, when reality doesn't match the reaction, we are actually doing more harm to ourselves than good. By rewriting limiting patterns into empowering practices, we engage the heart and executive brains. As a result, we are able to think more clearly, have more empathy and respond both rationally and with care for ourselves and others. This might be some of the most vital work of our lifetime!

Are you tired of feeling like others are taking advantage of you? Have you struggled to draw and maintain boundaries? Check out our next Journal Jam and gain insight into how to courageously and gracefully draw boundaries with just 20 minutes of journaling.

For Journaling Prompts Check out this week's video

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