This article shares a variety of examples of emotional-behavioral patterns.
Andrew has an emotional-behavioral pattern with regard to romantic relationships. He idealizes women and is unrealistic about them and life. His pattern is that he falls in love and when the loved object falls from grace, as inevitably she will because no one can carry Andrew’s projections of perfection for very long, he falls through the sadness barrier into despair. His despair leads to self-punishment. Now alone, there’s no one else to blame and he blames himself and punishes himself by endlessly chewing over all the things he did wrong in the relationship. So Andrew’s pattern is:
love => despair => self-punishment
Louise is a withdrawn type, prone to intellectual pursuits. But occasionally in her life through aesthetics, nature, or indeed love, she becomes emotional and she feels the world, which is a marvelous breakthrough. However, this is when her pattern kicks in. When she feels, her experience is so powerful and overwhelming that she automatically acts to suppress it with wine, TV, and intellectual numbing. But her suppression of the strong feelings leaves her with an intense, inner emptiness. In fact, she feels as empty as the feelings made her full and she becomes severely dejected and withdrawn… or back in her habitual character again. Her pattern then is:
feel => act to suppress => emptiness/dejection => withdrawal
There are generic models -- or general models of broad principles – of emotional-behavioral patterns. They provide a dynamic structure in which you have to fill in the content. Having a structured framework to hang your client’s individual drama on may help you to gain a deeper understanding of the overall pattern. Generic models include the following:
withdraw => confusion => fear
act => dissatisfaction => frustration
collapse => can’t get support => weakness
react => no desired outcome => resentment
deceive => deny => reinforce image
resist => receive disapproval => feel pressure
You might use these generic models for reference or as a starting point for your work with patterns. In time you could work up some variations of these examples from your clinical experience.
So far our examples have consisted of relatively simple patterns composed of three or four elements. But some patterns are more complex, as in the following examples.
Examples #3 and #4
A slightly more involved pattern is demonstrated in Peter's emotional-behavioral pattern. A life-long bachelor in his late thirties, Peter enters a relationship to meet his need to be loved. When the relationship fails he experiences pain and self-doubt, then he withdraws into his solo life until he feels strong enough to re-emerge and try again. This simple dynamic might be represented like this:
emergence => pain and disappointment => withdrawal => emergence
In this further example, Deidre took a great risk in her life when she quit her secure job to set up a pottery business. After two years of huge effort and striving and struggle, she admitted defeat and returned to her office job to start paying back the debts she had accrued setting up her failed business, feeling guilt and shame about her failure. Six months on she finds her way into therapy on the brink of taking another risk, opening a small art gallery in town. This dynamic looks like this:
challenge dissatisfaction/take a risk => struggle => defeat => shame => return/accept dissatisfaction
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [email protected]
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [...]