A Six-Step Process Toward Liberation:
Unhooking from Limiting Patterns*
The day I discovered Real Choice was the day my life changed.
One of the topics of conversation that I often have with clients and workshop participants is how to work with automatic patterns that no longer serve them.
Do you know these places in your own life? These patterns have a familiar feel to them, and we often try to avoid dealing with them because we have a lot of negative judgment about them or because we haven’t clearly recognized them. We do our best to ‘work around’ them, with the hope that they will just go away. Yet, they pop up at the most inopportune times, often creating the feeling of being ‘emotionally hijacked.’ (See D. Goleman, Emotional Intelligence for more information.)
The beginning of the new year is a perfect time to increase our alertness to those recurring patterns in life that no longer serve us so that we can begin to release them and experience more real choice. I thought I would share my Six-Step Process for gaining increasing liberation from recurring patterns. What I find so exciting about this tool is that it gives us a direct realization that our patterns are not ‘just the way things are,’ but can be interrupted with intentionality, and a willingness to stay with what can be most uncomfortable within in order to experience something more expansive and new within us.
So, identify a pattern that you would like to work on, and begin to get in touch with how it feels when you are IN the pattern before you begin to use the steps.
Six Steps Toward Liberation
1) Recognize: The process of recognition is a major step in beginning to release and relax around patterns that trouble you. These patterns probably served a good purpose at an earlier point in your life. A good way to begin recognizing any given pattern is to notice when we feel tense, irritated, inflexible, angry, justified, or even when we feel nothing—an emotional flatness. At first, you may recognize the pattern from the ‘rear view mirror,’ seeing that occurred just a bit ago. With increased awareness, you may notice while it is happening, or even just before it starts to take over. (This takes enormous awareness!)
2) De-velcro from the pattern. Breathe and notice what you are experiencing. The acts of breathing and noticing the existence of the pattern creates an awareness that the pattern is just what it is, a pattern, and not you! You can create distance by not taking the pattern personally. That is, you see it as a coping or defense mechanism. Creating distance from the pattern also provides an opportunity for choice.
3) Be compassionate and curious. Of all the patterns that I see, the automatic drift to self-judgment is one of the most damaging aspects of the personality. This judging, critical voice has little value as adults. Invite in your “Inner Witness” which is observant, honest and kind.
Curiosity is an ally of self-observation. Simply be curious about what is happening internally! It allows us to get to know the mechanisms of the pattern. You might say to yourself, “Oh, isn’t that interesting. I’m doing X again. There it goes again. What can I learn about it this time?” Clients often tell me that this step helps lighten the experience and not take the situation so seriously.
4) Be with the pattern. Being willing to fully experience the sensations, the emotions, the inclinations to act that are associated with the pattern is an important step in building our capacity for self-acceptance, flexibility in future situations in which this pattern might again emerge. Being with the pattern diminishes our self-judgment, fear of the pattern, and allows us to stay connected to ourselves. This is a challenging step, because we automatically want to do is to run from it. It may take several minutes for the energy of the pattern to begin to change. Stay with it as long as possible.
5) Notice what part of you is NOT hooked. After the pattern has begun to
shift, ask yourself, “What part of me is not hooked by this situation? This helps you recognize that you are far more spacious than the experience of the pattern would lead you to believe. This can lead to some surprising discoveries.
6) Take New Action. Having been willing to ‘be with yourself’ through this
process of bringing your consciousness to the places that hurt within, you are creating the space for new possibilities. As you experience a shift from the recurring energetic pattern to more openness, what options are available to you? How might you respond differently?
Going through this process may take from a few minutes (after you’ve practiced it) to 20 minutes (when you first begin). If you have a hard time doing this solo, and are working with a coach or therapist, you might ask them to guide you in the process.
As you might imagine, this is not a one-time release process. It is a tool that you can practice whenever you come to a place where you are stuck. Our conscious attention (noticing) combined with breath focused on a painful inner experience is the ‘alchemist’s stone.’ It is a transformative act and a gift to yourself.
I’d love to hear back from you on your experience! You can reach me at Roxanne.lifewisecoaching.com.
* Edited from Roxanne Howe-Murphy, (2007). Deep Coaching: Using the Enneagram as a Catalyst for Profound Change. Enneagram Press, p. 183-184
© Roxanne Howe-Murphy
Roxanne Howe-Murphy, Ed.D., principal of LifeWise Learning Institute is a veteran Enneagram coach and teacher. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed book, Deep Coaching: Using the Enneagram As a Catalyst for Profound Change and is the founding teacher of the Deep Coaching Certification Program. She also directs the Enneagram Institute of the San Francisco Bay Area. For information on her teachings and products, visit www.lifewisecoaching.com