Wrestling with patterns
I’ve written before on ‘patterns‘. As I go on I discover more how serious patterns are in our lives. There are of course good patterns and bad patterns. Patterns are not simply what people refer too as ‘habits’. Habits though having patterns of their own, reside within the a deeper concept of patterns (as conceptualised by Walker).
Nobody is likely to be interested in their good patterns, simply because those don’t normally cause any problems. It’s the bad patterns that occupy people (on occasions). Of course some people just don’t care – and that’s fine cuz it’s a so-called ‘free and democratic society’ where people are free to do as they please (within the law).
Patterns are predeterminative of outcomes. But what does that mean in practical everyday terms? It means that even if you know ‘your pattern’ in any particular problematic area, wilfulness to overcome is more than likely to fail repeated attempts to change. Those who feed on pop-psychology will chunter that once a bad pattern is discovered that makes it 50% easier to overcome – to which I would simply reply, “Manure!” What people want is brownie points for ‘effort’ rather than specific performance – a patterned well etched from hand-holding through the educational system.
[I pause for a moment to be 100% clear, that I’m not engaged in giving anybody who might read this post, ‘therapy’ on these matters, or advice, nor am I attempting to change anybody! The reasons for my frequent nauseating disclaimers are bound to be unwelcomed or unappreciated. I know exactly the foundations of why I do what I do].
Having thought about this more, the main clusters of patterns are as follows (diagram is clickable for a larger view):
- Biological – sleep, eating habits and preferences, bowel habits etc.
- Cognitive – how one thinks or assesses things around them
- Behavioural – responses in terms of behaviour to ‘things’ internal or external.
- Socio-cultural – the ways of seemingly acceptable or unacceptable responses.
The above four big clusters are not rocket science and certainly not an exhaustive list. Mind you none of these clusters are sharply defined. They overlap considerably. The point of listing them is to understand (for myself) how patterns run so deeply and become so predeterminative.
Predeterminative easily leads one down a rabbit hole? How!? You launch off on ‘causal’ explanations in each domain thinking, “Ahahhh.. if it’s biological may be I need some lithium for my mood swing patterns.” Or if it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, “Right – I need special lamps and melatonin.” Or if it’s cogntive, “Right I need CBT!” And you could go crazy searching for causes and treatments while missing the big picture. What’s that? Maybe just maybe you are the cause of your own patterns, and maybe it’s a combination of all four domains and you’ll never untangle it.
Thinking it through, the biological is the most obvious area where we have rather limited control. The ‘cognitive’ is where people think they have most control, as after all ‘everybody’ believes that they are masters of their own thoughts and mental functions. The ‘behavioural’ is notably more difficult because people often recognise their difficult patterns of responding to things but struggle to change. The ‘socio-cultural’ is a mixed bag. If one has problematic patterns in that domain they may not be discovered unless something causes a significant contrast to bring them to conscious awareness. If or when that happens, it’s not simply a matter of saying ‘Me culture was wrong I need to change how I operate. It’s now sorted.‘. Why? Because the socio-cultural often sends deep ‘roots’ into the psychological and behavioural domains of patterns.
But patterns need not be ‘in yo’ face‘ as a ‘problem’. If one has a pattern of working 14 hour days and is well rewarded for that – and is ‘happy’ – one is then most unlikely to have time to notice, or develop other patterns. So big patterns have a knock on effect for leaving ‘smaller weeds’ in place, unnoticed. The other day I heard a story about a certain nameless person, who was the ‘pinnacle of efficiency and organisation’ at work – 10 hours per day. A co-worker visited their home and found ‘the pinnacle of chaos’ – I mean real utter chaos. The cultural pattern is for observers to say, ‘Poor thing.. she works too hard and doesn’t have time to clean up at home.‘ Well, the individual was of cognitive capacity to realise the smoke filled dump they were living in – was just gross. They couldn’t find 5 mins per day? Really? Laziness in an particular department is not just a habit, correctable by a few (proverbial) slaps on the backside. It’s a deeply entrenched pattern – which even (proverbial) ‘beatings’ are unlikely to correct. But problem realisation or recognition, does not mean that wilful action will just sort it out with a single ‘Spring clean’. This is where ‘behavioural patterns’ for home management becomes more relevant as a pattern of consistency. The behavioural is not a ‘thinking’ thing – and a lot of people get confused about this cuz they’re so programmed to think that it is about ‘thinking it through’. [I’m truly not interested in the insides of anybody’s home – what one does in there is entirely their business!]
People often have some idea about their own patterns that need change. They make resolutions and plans – but they will often notice that not much changes. I think this is largely because their energies are spread too thinly across a range of distracting issues. The source of most of this distraction is often in the social domains in their life. People spend a whole lot of time thinking about other people and situations arising. They’re basically trying to understand ‘why’ A, B, or C happened. But as I’ve said many times before, making sense of rubbish doesn’t change the fact that it is rubbish!
There are other patterns of ‘disinterest’. What’s that? Well I contrast myself with others. For example, I have no regular interest in football or rugby – in as much as most other ‘average people’ have no regular interests in geopolitical matters and stock markets. Am I trying to say that I am above average? I am not! Buzz off!! People are free to be interested in what they heck they want. Disinterest is about avoidance or lack of focus on the big issues that are likely to bring about the most change. Do I care to ‘understand’ why ‘we’ are like that? I am NOT!
How do patterns become etched? Quite simply by exposure to all the things that determine them! Does that really need more unpacking? Chrysst! Your ‘punishment’: ‘What if you were possessed’. Just to be clear, I’m not here to diagnose anybody or exorcise them. Should you who reads this, come to an uncomfortable (partial or more) realisation that your being is composed of patterns you may wish to change, then it’s up to you. If you’re ‘fine’ with your existence – that’s fine! Walker envies you – not.
The dream of most people even if not admitted, is to find some magical solution, or to find some book, or some informative video, or some guru – that’ll sort it all out. It rarely happens.
A pattern cannot be broken without identifying the pattern. How? To know the pattern has broken one must know what the pattern was in the first place.
Overthinking is a pattern of people often get into. I am not going to define it. I’m told “I just can’t stop”. You can stick them into a FMRI machine and find parts of their brains that have lit up when overthinking. So that does that mean, they need quetiapine? Rubbish! Or for people with OCD specialist scans will find certain parts of the brain shrunk while other parts increased in size. Same picture in depression. Well, this post is not is not therapy. So don’t expect me to explain how they might approach these problem.
People invest much time in finding causes, as if they will work some magic. If a patient has ‘mood instability’ throwing some lithium at it has a poor chance of working. Why? Lithium is not licensed to treat ‘mood instability’. Lithium is licence to treat specific (properly diagnosed) mood disorders which contains the mood instability. The research that determined lithium’s efficacy was with carefully controlled trials on properly diagnosed patients. ‘Mood instability’ is not a diagnosis. Similarly a pattern of ‘low mood’ cannot and should not be treated with antidepressants unless it is contained within a proper diagnosis. Read that again – slowly. Process it!
People with certain kinds of personality disorders will at times appear to have patterns of anxiety, ‘low mood’, unstable fluctuating mood, psychotic experiences, overthinking, and a range of other dysfunctional patterns. What I often see is that such patients end up on a cocktail of something like: duloxetine, lithium, quetiapine, lamotrigine, zopiclone, temazepam. What that means to me is that some doctors believe that targeting the ‘biological’ will help. So the buckshot approach to pattern-breaking makes sense to them.
I can imagine that anybody who happens to read this post may be expecting me to give them some ‘recipe’ for sorting themselves out. This sort of expectation is itself part of a pattern. How? People like to have things fed to them in nicely digestible packages – this is how they’ve always known it. Furthermore, anybody who nicely outlines a ‘problem’ is meant to be helpful by providing possible solutions. In other words, the ‘sort it out yourself through greater personal insight‘ thing, is not desirable. Hence ‘Walker’ is thrown into the categories of ‘armchair philosopher’, ‘idle quasi-non-academic’ or other neatly packaged cloaked insult, by yet another pattern among ‘people’ reacting to unhelpfulness i.e. useless. Walker knows this reactive pattern very well. But Walker has his own patterns some of which are unshakeable – by his own design.
So – what’s next? Nothing. Walker doesn’t give a monkeys – a well worn pattern. Innit!