Breathe in. Breathe out. Look around. People are leading happy lives. While their good fortune plays on your mind, your own life seems crippled with never-ending problems. You are getting in and out of bad relationships, hurt over and over again, emotionally drained, and physically tired.
At work, your situation is no different. You have been procrastinating tasks endlessly for weeks, resulting in poor productivity and low morale. With each passing day, stress seems to be reaching alarming levels. And to cope with this, you pick up bad habits. Clearly, you are no stranger to repetitive, negative patterns.
You are not alone. Many amongst us are stuck in negative patterns we can’t seem to get out of. We wonder ‘Why me?’, and wallow in the misery of being victims of the situation. What we probably fail to do is notice the repetitive nature of certain patterns. So what is the root cause of these repeated patterns? How do they impact us, and how can we break this negative loop to lead a happy and stress-free life?
According to research, there are at least 10 common negative thinking patterns, and these patterns take shape very early in life. In fact, prenatal impressions play a significant role in repetitive patterns. Counsellor Amita Mani explains, “Right from conception in the mother’s womb, some patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviour get impressed on our psyche. These lead to the manifestation of repeated patterns because that’s what we think or have programmed ourselves to believe. These are self-defeating mental blocks.” However, the negative patterns can also become a part of the script in the first seven years of an individual’s life, she points out.
When we are young, we don’t understand why these patterns repeat, let alone give a thought as to how they might already be imprinted in our minds. We probably even dismiss such patterns as coincidental. Truth is, if a life event has repeated more than twice, chances are it is not merely a coincidence. It is only when this realisation dawns on us that we begin to wonder why we are attracting similar negative patterns.
Sometimes there might be more to the negative cycles in life than psychology. The cause could be explained esoterically. It is said that some negative patterns may be carried across many lifetimes. Life skills coach and motivational speaker Neelam Kumar is a practising Nichiren Buddhist. She says, “I believe repeated cycles of issues in relationships and finances are an accumulation of the causes we have created over several lifetimes, of which we are seeing the effect now.”
Negative patterns—whether they are the result of prenatal impressions, or get accumulated over lifetimes—are detrimental to our growth, as they impact our understanding of the self. “We end up having many blind spots—don’t really know who we are and what we want. We develop too many fears, resentments, and shoulds, musts, and have-tos that restrict our lives,” says Mani.
These patterns not only rob us of our happiness but also manifest physically, especially as stress. Generally, phobias, back pain, joint pains, migraine, insomnia, acidity, and digestives issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are by-products of negative cycles. But do we ever associate these ailments with patterns in our life? Many of us even dismiss that psychosomatic ailments are a real thing. For instance, if we have been in a toxic relationship that makes us physically sick every other day, it is necessary for us to either communicate with our partner and fix the root cause or get out of the relationship. But if we are swayed by the few days that might turn out to be good, we might find ourselves forever stuck in the toxic cycle, feeling the literal pain in the neck.
How do we break such a cycle? It does need tremendous effort to break recurring patterns, but we can begin by acknowledging that the problem exists within us and not in our external circumstances. With this acknowledgment comes awareness and with that comes change. While it might seem like a herculean amount of inner work, there are ways to ease the process. The internal transformation can be facilitated through psychotherapeutic tools like Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). Mani says therapies like NLP have techniques such as reprogramming and anchoring positive behaviours, which help bring the negative patterns to the foreground of awareness so that they can be changed.
While some might find their remedy in psychotherapy, others might find that walking the path of spirituality helps break their negative cycles in life. Neelam, for instance, has found her remedy in practising Nichiren Buddhism. She says, “The simple act of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo can turn any ‘poison’ of repeated patterns of karma into the best ‘medicine’. Through chanting, one can see an honest human revolution within them. This helps an individual change to the best version of himself.” She believes that this inner revolution empowers the practitioner to fight these negative cycles. Many others like Neelam who meditate share similar views and experiences.
Whether we choose to break the negative cycles in our lives using psychotherapy or spirituality, break we must. Or else, we’d likely limit ourselves and not live up to our fullest potential. Having said that, we do need to realise that combatting negative cycles is no overnight affair. From identifying the reasons behind these patterns to understanding the root of the problem to set the transformation in motion, the process takes time, perseverance, and practice. The path might be a difficult one to tread, but in the end, when you break through the vicious cycle of negativity, it allows you to live life to the fullest.