The Aftermath of Breaking Patterns


Just because we’ve broken an old pattern does not mean  that it isn’t still there, even if it’s only broken shards reflecting the past and still capable of cutting us deeply. Now we have to deal with the broken glass.

The past year has been a life-changer for me and a time of immense personal growth.   Painful at times.  Much of the time.   And then a sense of freedom in understanding better the things that have caused me pain.  It’s been the grand opportunity to reset my future.

My first response to realizing the impact of my father’s mental illness on me as a child and then especially me as a woman yearning for love was to decide that all men must be off limits in the future.   Why?   Because falling for men like my dad was a pattern in my life.   I couldn’t trust that I wouldn’t choose yet another man exactly like my dad or any of the men who’d graced my life since my teen years.  It took a couple of months to realize that once I understood my pattern, I could change it.  This goes to the theme of understanding the darkness in our lives so we can create a different reality for ourselves.  I’ve attracted into my life way too many men and women who are duplicate personalities of my father and his mother.  These people tend to be among the more important people in my life.

I still attract people who have a deep intensity and passion, which mirrors my own, but intensity and passion need not be exclusively dark in their nature.   Actually, I see both as blinding bright lights is a vast darkness.

I have several changes in friendships in my life since I’ve broken the pattern, and I’m a little giddy at the idea that these people don’t bear the same traits as past strangers I’ve been close to.   The kind of intensity and passion I crave is rare to find, even when I’m advertising for it, and unheard of to just stumble into my life unexpectedly.   I’ll take it in any form I can, whatever they’re willing to share with me and as much as they’re willing to share with me.

But sadly,  I still have work to do.  I can’t pat myself on the back too soon.  I may have started breaking those old patterns but the patterns still cut me daily, when least expected.

I’m no longer attracting certain types of men and women into my life.  The new ones are everything I’ve ever wanted, but without  the bullshit.  Unfortunately, I find myself thinking of them in terms of those old patterns.  I feel as though I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

When a friend of mine returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, she would automatically react a particular way to the most innocent of noises.   If a car backfired, she’d throw herself to the ground, heart racing, expectations of the end of everything.   She was safely home and nothing in sight to hurt her, yet she’d been in the presence of bombing so often that she wasn’t even aware of her response to that old pattern.   She wanted to be whole again and did her best to let go of the past, but the pattern was ingrained.   It always took her a few seconds to figure out where she was in the present.

It’s like that once you break a destructive pattern.  You don’t have the destructive person in your life any longer, but you just expect the same destruction from an entirely different–and different type–person because that’s what you’ve always known.

I look at these new people in my life and wait for the explosion.   Can I really trust any of these people?  Will they hurt me, too?  Two, I’ve known for years, and they’re both a perfect example of my struggle to cope with still wanting to apply old patterns to them. One is a woman I’ve known for a decade and one is a man I’ve known several years, but I have a decently long history with both.  It’s just that as I’ve cleared out some of the negative people from my life, they’ve both become more prominent in my life.  There’s room now for good stuff.  And I made room for them.  For good people.  For people good to me, for me.  Neither has ever done anything to harm me or ever mistreated me in any way, so unlike the people previously in my life.   They are both people who are good stewards of my heart, have my back, and could fit into my life in an infinite number of ways.  I’d be content to have either in my home on a permanent basis or to share a trip through foreign lands without a guide.  And yet….

The simplest thing can happen–that car backfiring, that book dropped, that crash of a plastic water bottle to the tile floor–and I forget who they are.  Can I trust them?  I think so.   I do trust them.   But automatically I will be back in a war zone and respond that way.

I find that I expect either…both, really…to cast me aside in due time, move on without me, leave me behind after my usefulness to them is finished.  I expect the rejection to come.  I expect plenty of promises of how we’ll get together but then they not show up.  I expect that after that lunch invitation, I’ll find myself–as has happened before with someone who claimed to care for me–standing on the steps of my office building, looking at my watch, being quizzed by coworkers on whom I’m waiting for, and eventually realizing I’ve been stood up.  I expect that a late night text that has me excited for collaborations and new insights will be followed–as has happened so often–by a text in the morning, asking for a raincheck or canceling everything we’ve planned with no explanation, not because of anything I’ve done but because the other person is in a bad mood or angry with the world or because something I said was taken out of context. I expect a flurry of communication…and then weeks of silence with no clue as to why.   Irrationally, I expect the new people in my life to be just as callous and calculating as the ones who used to occupy that space in my heart and mind.   Not because of anything they’ve done, but because of what I’m so used to.

I’m not attracting the same type of people, but the effects of those old patterns leap up more often than I’d like.   I don’t always respond that way.   Not nearly as much as it might seem now that I’m casting a light on my fears. Only when something they do, some little something, is an echo from the exact words I’ve heard from someone else.

Words as simple and as beautiful as “You’re the single most positive influence in my life, ever,” or “You always make me think.”   Words that have nothing to do with these new people in my life or their intentions or how good they are to me.

Then I do something I hate.  Something I don’t want to do because I want to forget not only the importance to me of past friends (and more) who hurt me  but the reaction that was drilled into me by the repetition of ways I was hurt. I know that reaction well.  I’m well practiced at it.

In my inner core, my first response is to throw up walls to protect myself.   In case that wasn’t a car that backfired down the street but something that will shred me again.


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