How do I tell if I am repeating the patterns of a story? It’s not easy to see until you’ve been round it a few times – patterns, by their very nature, must be repeated to be observed. So the odds are that you won’t spot one until you have repeated enough times for you to see it as a problem. For people trapped in repeating patterns of dysfunctional relationship, or other things not working out, it is not comfortable looking at where we’ve contributed to that.
The only way to break out of a pattern is to start by acknowledging it. The only way to change a pattern reliably, is to change what you personally do. You probably didn’t get here alone, other people may continue to play roles, but you are the only person you have the power to change. If you label is at fate, karma, bad luck, you throw away your own power to change things.
Identify exactly what you think the pattern is. One of mine, for example, is being willing to bleed myself dry metaphorically speaking, to try and impress people who are critical of me and difficult to please. I have to prove something to them. I have to win them round. I have to be good enough. It’s taken me until recently to decide that I don’t have to prove anything and that ungrateful gits just waste my time and energy.
To get to this point I had to see what I was doing. I had to look at what happens to me emotionally when I deal with demanding and unreasonable people. I had to ask why I feel moved to give so much to people who are never satisfied. I traced the threads of this back through my own childhood, and back to one of my grandmothers, and I thought about her grandfather as well. Some of this has grown over a very long time. I had to ask what I owe anyone, and what’s in it for me. And I broke the pattern and stepped out of the story. This is a fairly painless example.
When you’re playing out a story like this, the roots of it can be deep in your family past. Digging those roots out can be painful and may cause shifts in other relationships. You may have to look at what forgiveness is needed, and helpful. You may well need to forgive yourself for what you’ve done as you’ve played the role. If the person most hurt by your actions is you, definitely work on self forgiveness. If your role has had you hurting other people, look at making amends, or at least learning lessons. It isn’t your right to forgive yourself for harm you’ve done to others. If you need to deal with people who set you up in this story, that can be complicated. Forgiveness isn’t obligatory. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it just traps us in doormat and martyr roles.
Changing the story, breaking it down, opening it out to make new endings possible… this is not easy work. It can be exhausting and it will likely take time. You may have to go some rounds with your story shape before you can properly escape from it. Be patient with yourself, and keep doing the work. If you can escape from a story that is really just a trap, life will open up for you in all kinds of ways and it is worth the work to get there.