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Growing Beyond the Pattern

This tree shows us how to do it: grow beyond a pattern.

And why would you want to grow beyond a pattern? Sometimes, over time, patterns are no longer helpful for what you want in your life, your relationship, your work, your team, or even your country.

A pattern is tough. If you want to be tougher than the pattern to bend it, you will end up in frustration and helplessness. I’ve tried it many times.

If you want to be stronger than the pattern so you can break it, the pattern will boomerang back at you. I tried this with my brother and sister after our parents’ contentious divorce. A pattern is about five times stronger than we are, so breaking it… pffff, that quickly requires the strength of war with the risk that more gets broken than you would like.

And just ignoring it? Pretending it’s not there and hoping it will disappear on its own? Patterns exist to ensure continuity and stability, so the pattern thrives if you ignore it.

So, what then?

There is an alternative. Still not an easy path, but certainly a navigable one. We call this path ‘growing beyond the pattern.’

How does that work?

It starts with no longer ignoring the symptoms but facing them. Do I often come across as arrogant? Am I often tired and exhausted? Do we frequently have conflicts in our team?

Then comes recognizing the pattern associated with the behavioral symptom.

Do I always feel better than others? Do I automatically take on work that I (often afterwards) have no desire to do? Does each of us defend their discipline in our team?

If you want, you can name the pattern, give it a label. Sometimes a label helps, but be careful not to fixate the pattern with it. In our examples, the patterns could be: parentification, fulfilling others’ tasks and identification.

A pattern wants to be acknowledged and accepted. It exists. It is there. Preferably, a pattern should be acknowledged without judgment or blame.

If you like digging (though it’s not necessary to grow beyond a pattern), you can look for the causes of the pattern. What was it a response to? In our examples: ‘We found the education system inadequate, so we made something better and felt superior.’ ‘As a very young child, I felt I had to hold the family together because our mother was bedridden. So, I easily take on tasks that are not really mine but feel like they are.’ ‘In our multidisciplinary team, the fields of physiotherapy and maternity care are not adequately heard, and if you challenge my field, you challenge me.’

Good news! To grow beyond the pattern, you don’t need to know the causes. Sometimes the causes are so deep or well-hidden that they are not traceable. To grow beyond a pattern, you do as this tree. You absorb all the extremes of the pattern into yourself, as part of yourself or yourselves. Including the unpleasant parts.

In our first example of parentification: If I feel better than others, there is also a part of me that feels less, smaller, or worthless. Maybe not in me, but then in our system. And if it’s in our system, it’s also in me. Then it’s about recognizing both extremes within me. Both the feeling of being smaller, insignificant, and the feeling of being greater and better. Optionally, you can find symbols for both extremes and carry them with you for a while. Until they, without judgment, become a part of you.

That takes time.

Allow it that time. Even if it takes two years. The pattern doesn’t disappear, just as the sign the tree grows around doesn’t. But the pattern no longer hinders your growth, development, life and work. And with the newfound space and freedom, you can achieve a lot.

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