Interrupting the Pattern – January 23 2020

The Ego is a veil between humans and God.

Rumi

There are people who are in our life day after day. Parents, children, spouses, bosses, co-workers. These people know where our buttons are.

When our buttons get pushed, we have a download of fight, flight, freeze chemistry. We have no control over this. But what comes next, it turns out, is up to us.

There is a tool called “interrupting the pattern.”

When our buttons are pushed, we have a download in our system of adrenalin, cortisol, norepinephrine and other chemicals that make up the fight, flight, freeze response; and then each of us has our own habitual reaction to this chemistry. We may attack. We may burst into tears. We may try to get as small as possible in the hope that we’ll disappear. We may join the designated “enemy” and attack ourselves along with the perceived attack we are responding to. In nearly every case, when we allow ourselves to go the way of habit, we end up feeling or behaving in a way that causes us shame, self-hatred, guilt and/or remorse. This is what is termed a ‘maladaptive response.’

The fight, flight, freeze response to non-life-threatening situations are patterns structured in our nervous system in the form of stresses. They were stored there in our past, and continue to operate, whether we want them to or not. We can notice them, become familiar with them, talk to our therapist about them; but we will continue to react through them as long as they live in our body.

Fortunately, the deep rest we have in meditation melts these stresses out of our body; and as these stresses are released in our meditation, the habitual responses become less and less strong; however, until we are completely free of these stresses, we will continue to have this download of chemistry at least once in a while.

That’s the somewhat bad news. 

But the good news is: as we meditate and let go of these stresses, we become more and more present in the world – in our body, in our senses, in our life; and as we become more and more present, we begin to be present to the actual process of reacting itself. Instead of going from zero to 60 in a second, we will feel the anxiety or fear or aliveness building up in us. We may feel words pushing to get out of our brain, or coming to our lips. We may have to watch them spill out even though we’d rather they didn’t; but as we continue to insist on being present to the experience, there will come a time when we will be able to interrupt the pattern of our habitual response:

  • by taking a breath; 
  • by feeling our feet against the floor or our bottom against the chair in order to ground ourselves;
  • by reminding ourselves this other person is a child of God and probably is frightened and, rather than doing something to us, is simply doing something they think is right, or at least necessary;
  • maybe we have to leave the room, saying something like, “I know we need to discuss this, but right now I need a moment and we can continue this a little later. Okay?”

By interrupting the pattern, we have a chance at keeping ourselves from falling into our old habits. By not falling into habit, we can begin to find new ways of being. We can begin to be the person we would like to be, the person we have respect for, rather than the person at the mercy of our past.

We are meant to live in freedom. Taking charge where we have choice, and accepting ‘what is’ where we don’t, is the beginning of that freedom.

Today I will pay attention to myself, not allowing my fight or flight responses to rule me. When I feel myself moving toward a less-than-ideal response to the world, I will redirect my attention and interrupt the pattern in any way I can.

Butler, Attack Dog, Studio City, CA

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