Week 5: Identifying Repeating Patterns

Exploring the repeating patterns in our lives, and understanding why we have them.

In Week 5, we start developing the foundational skills that enable co-ordination – the third of the key emotional intelligence skills. Step by step, over the next few weeks, we will develop the awareness and skills to break those pesky repeating patterns that cause so much struggle and suffering. This week, we start to map the territory – what kinds of repeating patterns happen? Why do they happen? Which ones do I have?

What to do Next:
  1. Watch videos (0501, 0503, 0504)
  2. Try the guided Repeating Patterns practice (0502), or use the written questions to explore for yourself in silence
  3. Reflect and/or journal about a) the video content and b) some of the patterns you see in your life
  4. Continue practising Emotional First Aid techniques and Emotional Pressure Release
  5. Optional – follow any additional explorations that seem interesting
Multimedia Course Content

Video 0501: Repeating Patterns

Repeating patterns: why we have them, how they form, and how to break them.

Guided Practice: Identifying Patterns

A pen-and-paper exercise or thought experiment to bring to light patterns that repeat in our relationships.

Guided Practice: Identifying Patterns (audio)

by Jenny Hale | Emotional Mastery Program

Video 0503: Breaking Patterns

Why patterns repeat, how to find the best leverage point to break a pattern, and what to do to break it.

Transcript: Video 0503

Video 0504: Last Week’s Practice – Emotional Pressure Release

Issues some people experience when starting the Emotional Pressure Release practice, and how to manage them.

Transcript: Video 0504

Coming soon – video transcript in pdf format

Written Questions from Guided Practice

In what ways am I like my parent (of the same gender)?

In what ways am I the opposite?

In what ways am I like my parent (of the opposite gender)?

In what ways am I the opposite?

How are my relationships similar to my relationship with my main caregiver?

How are my relationships similar to my relationships with my other caregivers?

What common complaints do I have about my partners?

What common complaints did I have about my parents?

How empathic were my caregivers?

How much did my caregivers discuss emotions?

How empathic are the people I choose as partners?

How much do my partners discuss emotions?

What is my biggest complaint about relationships?

What would I most like to change about my relationships?

Am I attracted to people who are wrong for me?

Do I see childhood patterns in my current relationships?

What feelings come up regularly in my relationships? (Use Emotions Wheel)

  1. What repeating patterns can you identify in your life? (Consult the written list of questions or listen to the guided practice if you need suggestions.)
  2. Thinking about the process of breaking patterns, how would the practices you have learned so far support you in breaking patterns?
  3. How do you feel when you think about the repeating patterns in your life?

Review Earlier Weeks

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between a repeating pattern and an addiction?

A: Addictions are one kind of repeating pattern. In essence, we use addictions to deal with emotions that we can’t regulate on our own. The problem is that the addiction has consequences, and the consequences often generate emotions that we can’t regulate on our own, so we do the addictive behaviour again … and again … and again … 

The situation gets more complicated when we use a substance that is physiologically addictive in its own right, like nicotine or opiates. To get free of this kind of addiction we need to break the physiological addiction to the substance as well as the emotional addiction to it as a coping strategy.

Fortunately, modern medicine has made much more progress on breaking physiological addictions than it has on breaking emotional addictions, so withdrawal from the substance is usually the easier part of the recovery process.

Q: When I try to do the Emotional Pressure Release practice I get heart palpitations, and I feel like I am about to have a panic attack.

A: If there are emotions that we didn’t learn to regulate as a child, it is quite common that we learn to “not feel” those emotions by generating adrenaline every time we start to feel them.

This is effectively like having a phobia of our own emotions, in the same way you might have a phobia of spiders, or clowns.

The treatment process is exactly the same – learn how to regulate the fear response first, using Emotional First Aid techniques at the first sign of any tension. If you are in this position, then at first you might spend 90% of your time in the practice simply calming yourself to remain in the green zone. That’s totally fine.

In addition to the Emotional First Aid techniques, you can literally reassure yourself, internally or out loud, by saying things like “it’s OK, we’re safe, everything is fine, it’s just an emotion, we’re big now and we can handle emotions …” and so on. Experiment until you find the right phrases to reassure yourself.


13 + 9 =

Additional Exploration

References, optional further study and additional practices

Academic References

Walker, P. (2013). Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving: A guide and map for recovering from childhood trauma. Azure Coyote Publishing.

Van der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. London: Penguin Books.

Instructor and Supervisor, The Trauma Center, Boston, MA
Paper presented at the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, November 13, 2000, San Antonio, Texas

Dr. Daniel Sumrok, director of the Center for Addiction Sciences at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine, suggests that addiction should not be called “addiction”—it should be called “ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking.” Sumrok has gone on to attest that this comfort-seeking is a normal response to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), much like “bleeding is a normal response to being stabbed.”

About Carl Jung

Carl Gustav Jung (26 July 1875 – 6 June 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung worked as a research scientist at the famous Burghölzli hospital, under Eugen Bleuler. During this time, he came to the attention of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. The two men conducted a lengthy correspondence and collaborated, for a while, on a joint vision of human psychology.

Among the central concepts of analytical psychology is individuation—the lifelong psychological process of differentiation of the self out of each individual’s conscious and unconscious elements. Jung considered it to be the main task of human development. He created some of the best known psychological concepts, including synchronicity, archetypal phenomena, the collective unconscious, the psychological complex, and extraversion and introversion.

Jung pioneered the notion that our unconscious is not the dark, dangerous, uncivilized threat envisaged by Freud; instead, he championed the idea of integrating wisdom from the unconscious to improve the quality of life.

Some of the techniques in later weeks of the Emotional Mastery program will draw on this powerful reframing, as we start to build the productive co-operation between our analytical and our experiencing minds.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.”

Carl Jung