Relational patterns that keep on giving...pain, regret and heartache.
By Cheryl A. Burke, Psy.D, LMHC
What are relational patterns?
Relational patterns are behavioral regiments that we develop as a result of our subconscious thoughts. In other words, our previous relational experiences influence our present and future relationships.
How did I develop my relational patterns?
Although some of us were extremely fortunate, and were raised by two happy-healthy parents who had great communication and relational skills, many of us were not as fortunate and did not learn and develop healthy relational patterns when we were young. The good news, however, is that even if your early tutorials were less than ideal that doesn’t mean that you have to continue to travel a path that isn’t getting you where you want to go. In fact, you and you alone control what you do or don’t do. With awareness, action and effort you can alter your path.
How do I know if my relational patterns are preventing me from having a healthy relationship?
· You find yourself attracted to the same type of person again and again, even though you know the personality mix doesn’t work
· You start and finish all new relationships practicing the same behavioral patterns that you did with all previously failed relationships
· Most or all of your intimate relationships follow the same course throughout the relationship- same or similar problems, same or similar resolution
· You are convinced that it is not you who is contributing to the failed relationship—it’s the other person--every time
· When changing your behavioral or cognitive patterns seem impossible to alter even when they are not helping you to get what you want
· When your behavioral and cognitive patterns are extreme-black or white, lacking grey or something in-between
· Your family and friends frequently make comments that suggest you may have negative relational patterns
How do I change my unhealthy relational patterns?
As mentioned previously, the first step is to awareness. Take some time for yourself—alone—to examine what your relational patterns might be. Make a list of your last few relationships and determine what you always do. Ask yourself if your behavioral patterns are extreme.
Next, identify how the relational pattern was developed. This step requires some understanding of how your cognitive processing operates. Ask yourself why you might have developed the patterns. Are you protecting yourself form something? Are you fearful that you must give everything or nothing? Are you holding on to anger and resentment from previous experiences? The answer lies in your subconscious thoughts. Our history drives our behavior; to change it we must first understand where it comes from and why we hold onto it, even when it makes us unhappy. The third step requires you to examine each problem, connect it to a subconscious thought, process it, change your subconscious thought, and then pair the change with a new behavior.
Finally, if you try to make changes and are not satisfied with your results don’t wait, get some assistance! You can change destructive relational patterns and move into your next relationship shiny and new; it’s up to you!
Please e-mail Cheryl Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and comments about her articles.
Note: For further information about Cognitive/Behavioral techniques see my newsletter article on Cognitive/Behavioral therapy.