The Game Afoot: Repatterning Old Patterns (as published in The Friday Edition of HeartBalm Healing at https://heartbalm.substack.com)
There is a game afoot! It is there lying in wait for the next time you do something or act a certain way that mirrors an old pattern from the past. It is ready to rise up again and get you to turn on yourself in a way that you have been trained to do. Like a marionette on strings, you will hop to another’s tune, and move in the same way that you have been taught and habituated to react. Except now you are the one pulling the strings and are the puppet herself. You are in both roles now.
Oftentimes, the way in which we were made to jump through hoops as a child or with a long-standing abuser or abusive parent, guardian, sibling, or toxic extended family structure remains intact as we get older. Complex trauma does not let go of old wounds, patterns, and the sickening games we were made to play out with dysfunctional others just because we reach adulthood.
Until we come to terms with our past – life patterns and relationships will continue to be the same – it is just the faces that change.
If you are dealing with CPTSD you know all too well the layered onion, and seemingly endless areas of wounding and places within that hold trauma. When repetitive abuse occurs, especially as a child, the entrenched patterns created by toxic abusers can be a minefield to navigate for the rest of one’s life. Throughout life, triggers and old patterns arise that throw us into flashbacks, dissociative episodes, and long periods of mental and physical anguish. Help is never quite sufficient, thorough enough, readily available, or affordable. Any stop-gap measure we might reach for never quite alleviates suffering or fixes what is wrong. The band-aid approach is never enough to heal the wounds faced in a day, a month, or a life. They become frustratingly inadequate, and a reminder of how broken, unhealable, and like an unfixable project we feel.
A child, who has endured and survived repetitive and long-term abuse and neglect is set up to fail. Used repeatedly in an abuser(s) game of self-interest and exploitation. A way to gain power and control over another because of their own feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and mental instability. But for an adult to do this to another – let alone a child, and let alone their own child, is an inexcusable act. Yet, the child is the one that will carry all of the trauma, the wounds, shame, and self-hatred, and find no forgiveness for herself/himself even into adulthood. The child will internalize all the hatred, abuse, game-playing, hoop-jumping, neglect, unworthiness, undeserving, insecurity, and inadequacy as their own – and replay it for a lifetime. This is the perpetrator’s intention, however, to project all their own toxic shame, unhealed wounds, unaccepted parts, and places held and hated within them to those outside of themselves and onto their chosen target.
As a child – the first instincts are that of a wholly innocent being learning from those that are in charge of her/his welfare, growth, and healthy development. The child is a sponge – taking in what it is given. Learning from those in their immediate sphere. This child is not chosen because she/he is bad or wrong or deserved to be used and exploited – this is never or will ever be the fault of a child. We must go back to this place of innocence, of our wholeness at birth, of our deserving, our worthiness, and our already loved, loveable, and loving state of being. This is how we were born and how we came into the world. It is not gained through religion, spiritual practices, societal or cultural norms, or another’s determination that deems us so. Innocence and wholeness are the authentic nature of any newborn – this is your authentic nature – your intact, universally-given, and granted way of being. Take away all else that you think you are, or all that you have covered yourself in, or added to your being, and go back to the simple truth of who you are. Drop everything that you have tried to add to make yourself more, and see that you are already imbued with this truth of wholeness and completeness, and are absolutely and unconditionally loved.
The problem begins when the truth of our wholeness and innocence is consistently skewed by another, especially by a parent or caregiver, and then reinforced by the wider circle of familial enablers, and all those wishing to stay safe from attack themselves. Over time, the campaigns of abuse and being projected upon, gaslit, scapegoated, and traumatized create patterns within the child that become entrenched. How is a child’s mind supposed to cope with such strain and abuse, and the cognitive dissonance and callous senselessness by those that are supposed to love, protect, and care for them? A child’s psyche will eventually break under the pressure of abuse, and fractures as it jumps through endless hoops trying to find solid ground and a space or person who is safe and trustworthy but instead finds that safety and acceptance are a lost cause. In order to survive, the mind breaks off into fragments to hold parts of itself safe, and far away from terror and obliteration, while other parts become the bully, or the severe inner critic mimicking the abuser, and turning on herself/himself. The idea that any child is subjected to a home where they must endure and survive their own parents and family to develop and grow is an unconscionable thought. Yet, it is an unspoken, unaided, and unattended reality in so many households. It is no wonder the patterns developed as a child and reinforced within the family system and extended enabler system, become the abusive ghosts that follow us throughout life.
Habituated – practiced, addicted, seasoned, veteran, hardened, experienced, dependent, accustomed, inclined, hooked – these are all synonyms for the word habituated. It is clear the power that repetitive abuse and neglect have over another, and the way the mind, body, and heart adapt to handle the pressure and cognitive dissonance of manipulation and abusive encounters, especially by parents, caregivers, loved ones, spouses, family, and extended interpersonal groups.
We end up abusing ourselves, jumping through our own hoops and over our own created hurdles. We end up setting up similar games that we can play out in our day-to-day lives, and then if we fail or do not do it exactly as we think it should be done, we then become our own bully or abuser. We may not realize the negative self-talk and berating critical voice as an old abuser but if we look and listen again we may find a familiar narrative.
Your inner critic re-affirms untruths about yourself that you have internalized to be true. Athena Laz, “The Deliberate Dreamer’s Journal”
The inner critic can hold space as a gentle voice, as an impatient and judgmental voice, or come in full throttle as a severe and chronically abusive inner critic. These changes, or degree of severity can ebb and flow or it can be stuck on one consistent volume. This is the voice, including the language used and the games being played that we need to open to, come closer to, and really begin to listen to, to be able to unwind and reveal the looping narrative at play. Clarity in this practice is key to unlocking the power and control that this negative and repetitive pattern has over you.
STEPS TO REPATTERN OLD PATTERNS
- The first step is just beginning to listen; to become aware of that inner toxic noise that comes in to berate, abuse, judge, or tell you that you are wrong, unworthy, or dole out other negative self-talk. Begin to journal what is arising, and what you are beginning to hear and see as ridiculously judgmental, over the top, and far from a loving voice. Get to know this recurring narrative, the sound, and tone of voice, and breathe deeply into your courageous and willing action to face, understand, and “out” this old foe that lives hidden and resolute in the dark corners of your mind.
- The second step is to redirect negative self-talk in a new way. As the inner critic’s voice becomes clearer to you – begin to develop a positive inner coach – with a firm but fair tone and voice. If you played sports or had a teacher or other adult in your life that was a positive influence link into this constructive, supportive, and motivating way of being that you admired and how this helped you in your life. Foster and nurture an inner coach within you that stands in her own power, is confident and sometimes tough with you, but inherently and unconditionally loves you and wants the best for you. As the inner critic comes online, and you are swayed to take up your place in the old habituated pattern – bring your inner tough-loving coach in to stand up to the negative inner critic and say “NO! I will not play this game with you. I have had enough!” Allow your inner coach to stand in this place with you and guide you lovingly, and firmly through the experience, standing up to the voice of criticism and the deep trough of addicted reacting and negative feedback. As you stand up to, become clearly aware of, and face the inner critic this negative voice will begin to diminish over time. Allow your inner coach to direct you and bring you back to yourself, and back to a loving, safe, and protected place – grounded, and free from the negative patterning and toxic inner voices. Write down the language of your loving inner coach. Write down statements that you can reach for when old negative self-talk arises or when you notice the critical voice in the background of your mind – dictating softly what it does not want you to hear and become wise to. Be prepared and ready for the patterns that will cycle back and try to exploit your habituated mind and bring you back to the patterns of the past. Get ready to overturn the apple cart and interrupt the old voices and patterns trying to get you back into the game.
- The third step is to find the toxic games you were forced to play as a child. Any games or hoops you were made to jump through by an abuser or others, and then find it within yourself today. Where are you still playing out that role or game? Where are you overriding your own ability to love yourself fully because of this seasoned pattern that is still replaying in your life? Where are you abandoning your own sense of self-acceptance and the ability to see yourself as whole, loveable, worthy, and deserving of being loved? If as an adult you find yourself feeling to blame for mistakes made by others or anything that goes wrong you may have been the subject of scapegoating or gaslighting. These patterns once seen and faced can begin to shift with your loving awareness, and your inner coach’s help to let go of the feelings of self-blame, shame, and guilt for all that is not yours. Another example could be if you had to take on the responsibility of your parents and family – overextending yourself to fix problems, secure love, and acceptance, survive, and parent your parents. This could manifest in your adulthood as someone who takes on the responsibilities of those that shirk their responsibilities – triggered by the feelings of having to survive, try and make things better, more organized, and less overwhelming and tolerable for you to exist in.
Overriding old negative patterns will take time. But as you move through and encounter these moments you will find that the love that supports you in this process – your own loving heart that wants to advise, support, motivate, and change old habits will become stronger than the old pattern put on you and adapted for your survival. It will become clear that it is no longer what you want to metabolize in your daily life or hold as a way of being. You will find yourself becoming more self-empowered, and unwilling to put up with nonsense, criticism, and negativity, and become focused on loving yourself from the inside out and being treated with care, safety, love, and respect. You are habituating your own loving patterns now and seeing the old hardened and unyielding ways of being unraveling and falling away.
Reflective repatterning neutralizes our negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions offering us more freedom, choice, and flexibility. Embrace, become, and adore the exquisite you that you know yourself to be. The innocent, open, curious, and loving being that were born as. Use the following poem as a mantra or new positive narrative to repattern how you think about and believe in yourself, hold and embrace yourself, and expand each day in loving yourself.
as the one that has been with you your whole life,
as the one who wants to love you more than anything else,
as the one who knows you best,
as the one who can understand your pain,
as the one who has deep compassion,
for all that you have endured,
as the one who feels the inner ache,
and wants to hold and soothe,
as the one who holds the key to your freedom.
Give way now to your own loving hand
outstretched and eager to lead you back home
and to your own loving heart.
Drop all that you believe about yourself
good, bad, or indifferent.
Drop all of the ways in which you judge yourself,
all of the ways in which you say you have wronged or are wrong,
all of the ways in which your abilities and life have not measured up.
Give way to a new space of allowing yourself to be just as you are.
Can you accept this?
Can you see yourself as whole and complete in all that you do?
Can you give up picking yourself apart,
and tearing yourself to shreds
because you think you have erred in some way?
It is time sweet one, to accept all that you are,
all that you have been and will ever be.
It is time to stand in your wholeness,
with your imagined flaws, imperfections, and all.
It is time to walk with head held high,
with chest raised, shoulders back,
breathing in and out fully and confidently.
It is time to stand in the space of self-empowerment,
of deserving, worthiness, of safety and spaciousness,
even if you do not yet believe it fully.
It is time to play the game your way,
to embrace, love and become all that you are
at this moment, in this place and time.
There is nothing else that needs to be added,
nothing to fix or figure out.
There is no new trauma project to take on and heal,
no more internal changes you need to make,
except for the one that makes you a friend to yourself,
and the practice
self-acceptance and self-loving actions.
There will still be times when you falter,
and fall back into old patterns,
and play out others’ games,
using yourself as the scapegoat or whipping post,
but this will become your reminder
of what no longer serves you,
and you can step back into your practice,
and your game of loving yourself unconditionally
as the way of relearning your way back home
to your deserving, worthy and loving heart.
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Sunny Lynn, OMC is a spiritual counselor, writer, poet, photographer, meditator, and nature lover on a mission of transmuting complex trauma through self-love, healing, and bringing balm to hearts everywhere. She has a blog and podcast – HeartBalm at heartbalm.substack.com that speaks on the topic of self-care and self-love, mindfulness and healing while living with CPTSD.