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Change your actions, change your mind
AS the old saying and definition of insanity goes: doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. It is unfair to describe this as a definition of insanity, but it is such a very common phenomenon.
In fact, most, if not all, of us can relate to this. Not that we are all insane or crazy but much like my last article, we are very much habitual creatures where our thoughts, behaviours and personality is based on patterns and habits of repetitive behaviour.
Sigmund Freud was a pioneer for psychology. Like him or not; agree with or disagree with him; either way he had an impact on the science of psychology and impact on the psyche of our society and collective psychology. 
He was very much interested and proposed that we are all guided by basic instincts; and that if over the course of our development our instinctual needs were not adequately met, we got, in a way stuck in a pattern of behaviour that is present in our everyday functioning but has its roots in unmet needs from the past. He coined a term for this, repetition compulsion.
Repetition compulsion is about how we seek out needs (that are linked to the past) in adaptive, and sometimes, maladaptive ways. These are traits and aspect of our personality and behaviours that are often unconscious but guide what we do consciously. 
These are traits that we exhibit or act up on often without thinking, driven by often string emptions – hence, compulsively. For instance, someone might have been impacted in their developmental needs and as a way of coping with this, instead of dealing with it then (because a child lacks the ability) they might adapt to it by changing the approach to the environment. 
Behaviours such as perfectionism, which are often compulsive, are not about doing things perfectly but an (mal)adaptive way to feel good about oneself; or rather, not feel bad about oneself. 
Other behaviours might be selflessness, people-pleasing, or even more problematic behaviours such as addiction. The function of the adaptive trait or behaviour is to try and have that unmet need met. 
The need might be around love, attention, self-esteem for instance. Furthermore, the function of the behaviour is a proxy for ‘re-enacting’ the past in such a way to attain the love, validation or self-esteem need that was thwarted. T
his issue is that people become consciously aware that these behaviours don’t result in attaining the need and can become resentful at themselves or at others. Yet, they keep doing it over and over expecting or hoping for a different result. They feel compelled like they cannot do it. The pattern goes on and on. 
A more contemporary conceptualisation of this is by way of schemas. A schema is a template for certain behaviours to be enacted once triggered by an event that corresponds to a developmental issue in childhood. I call them mind traps. 
Basically, these mind traps, when activated, almost seem to cause us to act in ways we’d otherwise prefer not to. We may wish we weren’t as compulsive, perfectionistic, or passive etc. 
Re-enactment of the past
Yet, we find ourselves compelled to do and this becomes frustration because it is a re-enactment of the past; we are trying to resolve it with the schema adaptation, but it is ultimately a mind trap and we fall in; making the same mistake over and over. 
It was a way with dealing with our past childhood environment; but it no longer serves us or is needed; but we do it anyway.
I guess you could say we are trying to kind-of heal the past, but we invariably end up maintaining the negative effect the past had on us. Moreover, the more we do the same; repetition compulsion we are living outside our instincts and intuitions. 
This is the tension we feel – even at worse depression/anxiety; and the frustrating part of this whole thing. We want to be happy, to be ourselves and all that lovely stuff but we keep unknowingly ourselves stuck because we are trying to redo our past and, in a way, ‘master’ it. Unfortunately, stuck is all we get. Same thing, same result.
So, what can you do? This isn’t easy work to do alone but one thing you can start doing is journaling every night to reflect on your behaviours and history. You can and should ask yourself why do I do this? What need does it serve? What are my needs? The needs which were affected are still valid. 
The thing we need to do is to learn how to self-validate and practise self-love. What we still look for outside of us is keeping us stuck so we must practise going inward. Meditation practise is good thing for this. And, another quick tip is to have personally meaningful goals that you can work on and towards every day. These keep you conscious and focussed on what is important to you. Implicit in this is self-value. 
Having goals also helps to maintain boundaries and maybe you can help mitigate the chances of getting sucked in by and triggered by people and places that active the mind traps and patterns of repetition compulsion. 
I have a saying: less of the same, more of the different”. Set intentions and be intentional based more on your intuition. Even just today, or one day at a time, be conscious of your behaviours. 
You know how you want to be. Focus on being that way – just today! Trust in the psychological process of habits. Practise self-love and validation. Change your actions and you can change your mind, break old patterns and be the person and live the life you want to.
Marcus Whelan is a Registered Psychologist and Mental Fitness Coachwith 10+ years’ experience in private practice. He holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in psychology and education. Visit: www.marcuswhelanpsychology.com.au


Michael Walls
0407 783 413

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