I recently noticed that when I go into the restroom in our office, out of the two available stalls, I always choose the one on the left. I never noticed this tendency until one day when I went inside, the left stall was taken and I stood there feeling flustered before resigning to the one on the right. I’m not writing this to bore you or weird you out about my restroom habits, but because it made me wonder. Why is the stall on the left the choice that I have been making for years and what does this decision say about me?
I can’t answer the restroom-specific conundrum at this very moment, but I do know that this instance is a day-to-day illustration of how we develop patterns in our lives, often without even thinking about it. It should come as no surprise that many of these patterns don’t always serve us well, and it takes real work to try to change them.
Most of the calls we get at Take Root Therapy are from people struggling in their relationships, or struggling to get into a relationship, only to find that they are engaging in the same patterns over and over again. The bad news is that it’s easy to participate in the same patterns over and over again, for years even, without noticing or wondering why. (See my aforementioned bathroom stall example!) The good news, however, is that people are flexible. Just because you have engaged in the same pattern over and over again, doesn’t mean that you have to keep engaging in the same pattern. While it may not feel it in the throes of subconscious patterns, we always have the option to make a different choice.
Breaking patterns and establishing healthier ones is where therapy can help. One of the things that we specialize in at Take Root Therapy is helping our clients see their patterns and understand where they originated, and then make changes if they find their patterns are no longer serving them. Beginning with wanting to understand how the pattern originated – what need, desire, or circumstance it was born out of – makes it much easier to have compassion for the person creating the pattern (you). From there, we work with our clients to be intentional about the choices they are making. Instead of unconsciously choosing a partner that has some nice qualities but is emotionally unavailable, for example, clients are able to consider the choice they are making with clarity. And if, when they look at their pattern with their eyes wide open, they realize it’s not in line with what they want for their lives, they can challenge themselves and make a different choice. It’s at this point people feel empowered to make a different choice, breaking the blueprints that prevented them from moving forward.
Ultimately, this process is best conducted with the help of a truly compassionate and trained professional, within a nonjudgmental space. We work with our clients to be intentional about the choices they are making, not passive bystanders in their own lives. If the adage “Old habits die hard” is true, then breaking patterns can feel like you’re treading water upstream. But if you put in the work and forge a new design, your life can take a new shape. After all, if always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.