The Safety of Knowing
When Lewis came to me for coaching, he was tired of being stuck in an unhealthy pattern. There were too many fires to put out at work and the stress was getting to him. Lewis was short-tempered at home and with his team. And he didn't like the person he had become in the last 6 months. He felt unfamiliar to himself.
We immediately dug into the Pattern Rewrite process. The process starts with deepening awareness of the pattern by naming how you experience the steps in the Trigger Reaction Loop. From there we deconstruct the origin stories of the pattern.
The Pattern Rewrite process is more circular in nature than linear. As we explored questions to deepen his awareness of the Trigger Reaction Loop Lewis observed, "This feels related to when I was attacked when I was a teenager."
For him, deepening awareness led directly to the origin story. He was able to deconstruct the source of the pattern more quickly because of the work he had done in therapy. But until our coaching, Lewis had never drawn a connection between the attack and the pattern he was stuck in at work.
After he was attacked, he found that knowing offered a sense of safety. Lewis constantly strove to be in the know. He planned out scenarios in his head. He prided himself on having the answer for every problem he encountered.
But after stepping into a leadership role the previous year, Lewis couldn't have the same grasp on the details he had had before. People did things on this team he didn't fully understand. They came to him with problems he didn't instantly know how to solve. His work life became exorbitantly more complicated.
Because of the increasingly complex nature of his work, Lewis could no longer know things like he once did. And not knowing instilled fear and panic. Not knowing reminded him of the absence of safety he experienced so many years before.
But his circumstances were completely different now. Just because not knowing sparked fear and panic within him did not mean he was unsafe. The danger was all in his head, but the feeling that created the sense of danger was very real.
This is why deconstructing is an important step in the pattern rewrite process. Our feeling self detects similarities between past struggles (or traumas) without discerning the level of threat truly present. This detection occurs in the limbic section of the brain, which is informed by past experiences.
Forming these patterns of association has contributed to human survival for thousands of years. But in modern life, not all sensations we experience should be reacted to based on past experiences. Not every pattern we have internalized serves our best interest.
When we name those patterns and deconstruct their origin stories, we claim our agency to rewrite them. And we do that by consciously using our past experiences as a lens with which we view our current struggles. It is with this awareness and understanding that we are able to shift our thoughts in the moment. As a result, we may respond to current circumstances with intention instead of reacting automatically with a patterned threat response.
The sources of the triggers never went away. But by understanding the origin story of his limiting pattern, Lewis was able to take back control of how he showed up when he experienced the triggers. He no longer panicked or was short-tempered with his team. He was able to take a more measured and rational response because he was confident that together they would figure it out. He trusted himself and his team, and no longer needed to know to feel safe.
Are you ready to experience personal and professional transformation? What if you could experience a powerful shift with just 20 minutes of journaling? Save the date for the next Journal Jam, July 28th at 9am MST. More information and registration is available online here.
Here are some reflection questions to help you get started on the second step of the Pattern Rewrite Process.
What similarities are there between your past experience(s) and your current struggles?
When have you experienced similar sensations/feelings in the past?
What happened during those past experiences?
What did you internalize from that experience?
What's the origin story of your pattern?