I find myself thinking a lot about habit-patterns of energy. I am deeply interested in the habit-patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that humans develop around trauma, stress, and pain. I want to know how those habit-patterns grow and develop and often end up sabotaging our lives, and I seek to understand the process of moving out of those habit-patterns and ultimately developing a new, whole identity. You see, I believe that our habit-patterns are indicative of a fracture, a Soul Loss, if you will.
I’ve come to think that the biggest part of my work as a clinician, as a healer, and as a human being is the process of identifying, studying, and unknotting these strands of energy. This work is much deeper than simply changing old habits. I look at it as a form of Soul retrieval. In order to create lasting, positive change, I believe that we have to contact that wounded part of ourselves inside our body and bring them into the present where that old wound no longer needs to be protected. By finding, feeling and accepting that Younger Self, we begin to heal the fracture, and we can actually enlist her help in developing new, more fulfilling habit-patterns of energy and ultimately healing old wounds.
Recently, I tapped one of my own habit-patterns in a post I called Child’s Fear, Adult’s Sabotage. Thinking that I had a clear understanding of the habit-pattern and the specific Younger Self that I was looking at, I started writing an article about the fear of rejection. As I wrote and came into my body, I realized that I was dealing with a slightly different Younger Self. The Younger Self, or Soul that spoke to me was the little girl who thought she had to be a perfect, precocious, creative, smart little girl in order to keep her parents from killing each other. She believed that by being perfect, she could control the alcoholic environment she lived in. She developed her magic like this: She listened carefully to her parents, being vigilant for the things that she did that made them happy. If she did well in school, did something that was particularly daring, or behaved in a particularly lady-like fashion, her parents smiled, so she tried to do those things more often. When something didn’t come easily to her, she quit or wrote off the activity as stupid. When she couldn’t quit, she lied and found ways to cheat the system. Over time, avoiding the fear that her parents would either kill each other, kill themselves, or come to some other form of harm, became habitual, and she became so good at her magic that she stopped associating the thoughts and actions – perfectionism and its related bits – to fear at all. It just became her reality. Over time, even as my Adult Self began to cognitively recognize perfectionism as problematic and started identifying new, interesting things she’d like to try, that Younger Self would rise up and seduce Adult Self into perfectionistic thinking, procrastination, half-assing and quitting. The practice that started out as a survival technique grew into a sabotaging pattern of behaviors that spread across multiple life areas.
I have known about this Younger Self for a long time, but I’d never contacted her directly in my body, and she has continued to run many areas of my life. The fracture remained, and she was still lost. The experience I had the other day might have lasted 2 minutes, but it was profound. I went from a cognitive understanding of my perfectionism pattern to a physical understanding of WHY that pattern was so important and to who. I felt Her tight chest and tears. For a moment, I even felt the fabric of her pajamas against my legs. Because I was able to find the Self or Soul that had developed the magic, grown the habit-pattern, I was finally able to start unwinding the knots. I was able to say to her, “It’s ok. Mom and Dad can’t hurt each other anymore. We’re all safe.”
I recognize that this isn’t the end of my perfectionism habit-pattern. My neuro-circuitry is wired tightly around it. But now that I have embodied the true fear, the true wound, my consciousness about what is actually happening when perfectionism (and it’s flip-side, procrastination) will increase. As I practice moving into mindfulness around that habit-pattern, I will also start building something new. That scared little girl will be able to let go of control, and I will be able to move forward in my life in a new way.
It’s important to know, if you’re caught in a habit-pattern of self-sabotage, that cognitively understanding what is happening is only a part of the work. We are so much more complicated than our thoughts, and so thinking our way to healing will never be the whole answer. Neither will simply picking a new, more positive behavior. Our habit-patterns are portals into our past wounds, but in order to fully step in, heal and ultimately change, we must find ways to integrate our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. We have to bring our mind, body, spirit and soul into the same space. Talk therapy on its own can be useful, but in my experience, it is not enough for most people. Adding mindfulness and embodied practices like yoga, breathwork, and conscious dance can help us become our own personal shaman. We can heal our wounds and move forward if we are open, honest, willing, and conscious.