By Shawn McAndrew
Vicious cycles can be an annoyance, and they can be, well, vicious. They can also be a treasure trove of information about what’s beneath our actions, words, and feelings.
As we discovered in the Process, patterns are behaviors or ways of being that we learned in childhood. Through awareness, expression, compassion and forgiveness, we can transform these patterns into new behaviors. That’s what we call the Cycle of Transformation.
Unraveling Vicious Cycles
But what if we have a nest of patterns, a ball of behaviors that is making life miserable? How do we begin to unravel the hot mess that is making life hard, maybe even unbearable? One step at a time, as the saying goes.
First, let’s look at a situation. Say you’re at a party and you are looking around at everyone there. You start comparing yourself to each person and you think, “I’m not as successful as everyone here.”
What’s the next thing you think, feel, or do? Do you compare yourself to them? (“That guy makes $30 million a year. I don’t come close to that!” “That woman has it all. I got nothing!”) Then you start to think you don’t belong here; you’ll never be as successful, beautiful, etc. as everyone else.
So you move to where the food is or go to the bar, and stuff your feelings with canapés and alcohol. You observe everyone laughing, engaged, having a good time. Judgy thoughts creep in and you start feeling superior to them, thinking, “I don’t have to make millions to feel better about myself. I don’t have to have plastic surgery to look good.”
Suddenly these judgements make you feel lonely, isolated. You go back to comparing yourself to everyone else. You’re not as successful as that guy. You don’t have it all like that woman. You’re not part of the “gang.”
A vicious cycle is born! It can be very easy to slip into a vicious cycle, but despair not! Help is a tool away.
Mapping out a vicious cycle is a great tool by which to identify all the patterns working in the background. Think about a situation that happens frequently in your life (something work-related, relationship-related, maybe related to your body image). Write out the situation, and then what’s the next thing that you think, feel, or do in regard to this situation. Keep repeating this step until you return to the original situation. You’ve now mapped out your vicious cycle.
From here, you can identify patterns, and then take them through the Cycle of Transformation (awareness, expression, compassion and forgiveness). This is how you resolve the pattern and find new behavior.
A Treasure Trove
Understanding and transforming a vicious cycle is kind of like bonus day at your favorite store – buy one, get 10 free! You get to identify and transform several patterns at once instead of puttering along with one today, another next week. And, knowing what patterns can be triggered in certain situations allows you the opportunity to pre-cycle patterns that may come up in the future.
As I said at the beginning, vicious cycles are a treasure trove. Go through them as a way to get to the light and love that are innately yours to have!
Resources on vicious cycles:
Visit our graduate page to find all kinds of support. There are links to our Tools page, where you’ll find pattern worksheets and more information about the Cycle of Transformation and vicious cycles.