Monday, February 23, 2009


Patterns seem to be an inevitable rut into which the human species is doomed to fall again and again. It is as if our feet get stuck in the groove of our own making, and without conscious thought or volition, we trudge forward, placing each foot squarely in the same imprint made a thousand... a million times before.

Why do we do so?

I think it gives a spurious comfort to perform repetitive functions, to create in a sense, a ritual which can be enacted and completed without challenge to thought or effort. For while ritual can provide meaning and focus and encourage one to enter a state wherein you are open to and able to internalize thoughts and emotions not readily quantifiable in our workaday lives, “ritual” performed by rote, without introspection and thought, becomes not insightful but destructive.

Ritual done without intent becomes a pattern and a pattern is, when all is said and done, a predictable sequence of behaviours.

Predictability has its place in every life, but when it permeates every facet of existence it becomes stifling, destroys creativity, smothers possibilities and leaches colour from your existence.

Most decidedly, there is something in the human psyche that seeks order. We even create deities and then mythologies around those deities in an attempt to create reason and order out of what often feels like a chaotic universe.

The universe itself seems to favour order and pattern, as sequence, patterns and order are increasingly revealed as the preferred status quo. Science and technology continue to affirm again and again the hypothesis that where there is chaos, the universe demands harmony.

The problem of course is that while there can be comfort derived from ritual and equilibrium from a pattern in your days, mindless rote in the end serves only to undermine creativity, spontaneity and ultimately, can be and is often used as a substitute for insight.

I’ve also always found it mystifying why we continue to engage in patterns that are patently destructive to our peace of mind, happiness and ultimately, the quality of our lives.

Why do we do that?

I’m not talking about patterns we don’t see (because, like it or not, each of us engages to some extent in a groove of repetitive habits that through their very predictability, have become invisible and fallen off the edge of awareness). I’m talking about patterns about which, through trial and error, through experience and repetition, are obvious and in their obviousness, destructive to our peace of mind, quality of life and happiness.

What are your destructive emotional patterns?

Do you have insight into why you continue to follow that path?

I sure as hell don’t.

I consider myself relatively intelligent, with a modicum of insight and believe I at least deserve credit for determined if not fruitful contemplation of esoteric meanderings yet damned if I can figure out why I engage in the same self-destructive patterns decade after decade.

I think fear has some bearing on it; there is a comfort, spurious or otherwise, in “known” actions – in being able to anticipate and even predict outcomes. Breaking a pattern brings with it the loss of certainty (in essence, inviting chaos); the question of course is WHY is that seen by many of us as a negative consequence?

While “patterns” are often seen to be synonymous with “harmony” and thus desirable, I think that is perhaps a rather shallow interpretation of the balance in life. I think sometimes that chaos is far more gratifying, more life-affirming in its own way than peace.

Chaos in short has had a bad rap.

If the point of life (and I believe it to be truth) is in fact for each of us to strive to live up to our fullest potential, then I believe that too rigid an adherence to patterns can stultify and impede our journey to true self-insight and discovery.

The reality that in many instances we are our own jailors is moot; our fear is strangling us.

In ancient Greece, Chaos was the dark, silent abyss from which all things came; as in life, as in the creation of same. But somewhere along the philosophical trail of history, we’ve redefined it as a negative, something to be avoided.

In doing so, those of us who rigidly, persistently and blindly continue in our repetitive, often self-destructive behaviour are in essence contributing to the hobbling of our own probabilities. And that is just plain sad.

Sometimes it takes a hint of chaos, a small tremor of disorder, a frisson of turmoil to open our wilfully closed eyes to the realities of our existence and, while that can sting, hell it can be quite agonizing – I think the most important thing to bring away from the pain is self-realization ….


M:e said...

Oh my goodness, I LOVE this piece. I've just printed a copy to re-read at my leisure (quite possibly several times!).

There are times when I wish you and I could sit on the sofa over tea or a bottle of wine....I imagine we'd talk for hours!

love and hugs xxx

Buffalo said...

This is a particularly well thought essay. I looked carefully for points I could debate, but could find none.

Tiggs said...

Wow... this is awesome, though admittedly more than my poor sickly self can handle at the moment. Will be back again, though, once I am well!


Loving Annie said...

Your last paragraph is what finally stimulated me to be able to change the habits of a lifetime with the men I'd liked...

The chaos of the confusion and accompanying pain drove me to seek answers, and thankfully I found them on a website, baggage reclaim uk.

Funny how I was so blind to my own habits for so long.

Now, the more I see, the more I know I need to work on. And peace thankfully, comes with that - harmony where there was once none...

When our behaviors are effective, our habits support us.

Great post, Selkie !

Anonymous said...

Hi Selkie:
A really thoughtful post. There is so much to think about. I started to think about all the different patterns in my life. How some patterns can enrich and others create pain.
Thank you
Take care

Anonymous said...

Great essay and so true! You amaze me!

selkie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
selkie said...

M:e, I wish we could too, I think we would talk night into day and back again ...

Buff, usually you can find something that makes me rethink ....

Thanks Tiggs! Hope your cold/flu gets better soon! echenecia (health food store) helps- boosts your immune system.

Annie, I'm intrigued with that website ... I'm goign to check it out - I'm impressed that you were able to recognize AND change, I know I've recognized but find it incredibly difficult to do the "change" bit ....

AD ... you're completley on the nose ... pattersn can be both positive and negative - the trick is to change the negative ones, the ones impactingly one's life in a bad way, causing pain as you say.

Tallgrass, sweetie - thank you! hugs...