By Shawn McAndrew
By now, we all pretty much know what vicious cycles are. We covered them in the Process, and you can read the blog post about them here. But what are Virtuous Cycles?
By definition, virtuous has to do with having high moral standards. Sometimes the word can be a bit off-putting, as it can be associated with having to be perfect, chaste, virginal – all moral judgments to which most of us cannot begin to rise (nor would some of us want to!).
According to some sources, a virtue is a moral characteristic that a person needs in order to live well. In this discussion, virtuousness has to do with what choices we make, and why.
Why are we talking about virtuousness? Because it is part of what makes us a better person. With vicious cycles, we learn about what’s not working for us in our lives today.
A vicious cycle is a pack of patterns that can snowball us right back into the Dark Side’s den of iniquity. When we address the patterns in a vicious cycle, we can see how they flow from one to the next, building upon each other, creating havoc and pain.
Responding to Situations
What makes us better people is how we respond to situations, how we present ourselves and act in the world. If we are acting from a place of patterns or negative love, we perpetuate that way of being in our lives and in others’ lives. When we identify and recycle those negative patterns, our brain re-tools and we start acting from new paths of behavior – positive, virtuous ways of being.
From This Retooling, We Create Virtuous Cycles
I wake up feeling refreshed and positive -> as I’m driving to work, someone cuts me off in traffic, but I take a deep breath and am curious as to why they cut me off – are they having a bad day or is someone they care for in need of their help? -> I slow down, realizing their behavior is not about me, take another deep breath and turn up my music, sing along, and enjoy the rest of my commute -> I arrive at the office feeling relaxed and calm.
This situation could have easily turned negative, with possible dire consequences. By one simple change in perspective through being curious rather than going into a pattern (“The other person is having a bad day and it’s not about me” instead of “This jerk is trying to run me off the road. I’ll show him!”), we have the opportunity to make better, safer choices.
Positive Alternatives = Virtuous Cycles
When we recycle, we are getting positive alternatives of what to do in situations where we might have previously been triggered. Those positive alternatives become the default as opposed to the Dark Side-driven negative reactions.
For example, if you recycle patterns that you identify from a vicious cycle, the positive alternatives that you come up with then become the basis for your virtuous cycle. Virtuous cycles become the mortar in our foundation, the positive way of looking at things upon which we stand in moments of doubt, fear, anxiety, uncertainty. They reinforce our moral compass.