As a therapist or even someone on the receiving end of therapy, looking for and following patterns is a concrete way of making sense of ourselves. How we handled or reacted to situations in the past can be a great indicator of how we will approach them in the future, as well as allude to how we learned to get by before. Patterns and tendencies act as a road map of sorts that we subconsciously follow to get us to a place that is comfortable and familiar. This concept can be broken down into two parts: (1) the pattern and (2) the destination. As aforementioned, the pattern is the behaviors and thought processes we follow that are seemingly inherent to us, while the destination is the end goal or result we hope to gain or accomplish. If the pattern is the treasure map, then the destination marks the treasure. Let’s put this into context! Suppose you are in an argument with a friend. If tension tends to make you extremely uncomfortable and you want to get to a place of peace quickly (destination), you might succumb to their demands and agree to whatever you need to in order to restore said peace (pattern). Within the same situation, suppose your aim is to prove that you are right and impose that you have your way (destination), you might interrupt your friend, speak loudly over them, and be unwilling to explore their point of view (pattern). In the final example, suppose you want to maintain your friendship and find ways to reach a mutual understanding of one another (destination), you might ask questions and respond with compassion while also presenting your case (pattern). The takeaway here is that when we are aware of our patterns, through the assistance of therapy and self-reflection, we can better identify ways to change the unhealthy and strengthen the healthy tendencies. Additionally, we can wind up with more satisfying and sustainable destinations.
Written by Cindy-Joy Rosado – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling