I have been lucky enough to be highly skilled at pattern recognition from a young age. It is one of my favorite activities. Most of my jobs have come from my ability to engage this skill, and my family will no longer play board games with me because of this - but I'll live. These pattern recognition skills turned into what one may call an ~obsession~ with systemic patterns. I absolutely love the study of systems - especially human-centric systems like environmental degradation and enhancement, religion, and of course, psychology and human experiences. Systems thinking and design are even one of the main pillars of my masters degree. So, why am I telling you this? The coaching work I do is based in understanding the systems of our lives and how your individual and unique systemic patterns play out and affect your day-to-day life.
Today, we are going to explore some systems that come in to play as you return home to see your family, friends, and old lovers.
In its simplest terms, a system is a series of parts that make a whole. In my work with humans, I have found that there are two main types of systems.
A series of choices that produce a result.
A series of experiences that produce a difficult-to-change paradigm or pattern.
To change the patterns and paradigms in the second type of system, you must first be aware of their existence, then engage the first type of system and consciously choose actions that will produce new results. In the rest of this blog, I am going to point out some common patterns that exist as we return home and become closer in proximity to the people that may trigger systems that we have not yet healed and redesigned, and then I will give you some actionable advice that you can choose to take or not take to create more opportunities for healing and being a better version of yourself.
First, let's discuss triggers. Triggers can be thoughts you have, memories that find you after a long time away, words that are said to you, people you see, places you see, or even just the weather. Triggers can really be anything that start a systemic experience. They usually trigger thoughts and those thoughts trigger emotions. Those emotions can trigger unwanted reactions as you experience your daily life. The unwanted reactions will likely trigger more thoughts and emotions, and here we are stuck in a system until we can break away from it to heal. I bring this up as a reminder, because when you are in your childhood bedroom, in your old city where someone you used to be very close to lives, or around friends and family that knew a previous version of you, it is very easy to fall back into old patterns and be more affected by triggers that may not impact you as much in your current life. The child in you has yet to heal in these old spaces.
To allow yourself to heal, you must first recognize the patterns.
Triggers can show themselves in thought patterns, emotions rising, or even a physical sensation somewhere in your body. Mindfulness is key for recognizing these triggers as you return home. To find successful growth and a positive experience, you must constantly ask yourself hard questions. After answering these questions for yourself, you have to ask the hardest question; Why? As you drive into the city or drive home from the airport and are looking out the window, how do you feel? Why? If you are heavy now, your experience may only get heavier if you don't tend to the inner child trying to let you know they are scared or feeling down in this space.
Be conscious of who you are having conversations with when you feel a trigger in your body or mind (whether positive or negative). If you are getting positive triggers without underlying negative feelings, that relationship is probably fulfilling and you should do your best to experience that relationship more. If you are getting negative triggers, pay attention to how they show themselves and when. Is it the specific activity that you are doing with that person that doesn't serve you? Does the relationship you have with that person no longer serve you? Do the words and patterns in the way they talk to you trigger painful past experiences or remind you of someone that speaks to you that way? Maybe you don't feel like they know the current version of you. Have you given them a chance to? Do you need to? You may not.
As you pay attention to these things, it is very important to recognize the way you may be romanticizing your friendships and the people you used to know. Romanticization can paint someone more positive or more negative than the truth of your experiences with them. You may remember them in a much more positive light (or maybe it’s someone that the younger you thought was much more attractive, and you’re not necessarily attracted to them now) and now they are not all you remember them to be. If you are reading this, it is more likely that you have done some growing and they may not have put in the work you have, or they grew in a different direction that doesn’t align with your path. That’s okay. If you spend time with them and your experience does not serve you, you don’t owe them anything. Be kind to them, but be kind to yourself as well by choosing to honor your own needs and alignment. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do just because it’s been a long time since you’ve seen them.
Something that can be very fun is to connect with people you may remember in a negative light or as a sort of weirdo. In my experience, it is us fringe characters that do the most changing and achieve the most growth. It’s pretty amazing to get your paradigm shattered by the person you rarely talked to and discover how much you can connect on.
Again, you don’t have to keep hanging out with people or engaging in situations that don’t serve you.
If you have ever noticed a feeling of emptiness or lack of fulfillment after hanging out with someone or a group of people or after a sexual interaction with someone, that is your body trying to get your attention. If it could articulate to you, it’d say “Hey, I love you. That’s not relevant to what I need to say, I just wanted to remind you. Anyway, that relationship doesn’t serve us anymore. Let’s not do that again, or at least maybe we can create some new boundaries. Also, we still love them for who they are and that’s okay, we can love them, but if our relationship doesn’t have a positive impact on us, we can love them in a new context with new boundaries.”
You know what I’d suggest saying to your body after that? "Holy shit, you’re smart as hell."
Above, I have hopefully given you some interesting things to think about. Below, I am providing some actionable choices you can make going forward.
Check in with yourself every morning. Do you feel better than you did the day before? Worse? Why?
Create space for yourself to be alone. Maybe not in your childhood bedroom, as that may continue to overwhelm you and add some invisible negative weight to your emotional baggage. Get outside if you can. I know it’s fucking cold. I hate it too.
Keep a journal or note on your phone while you are home. Recognize the people, situations, and places that trigger you and explore why they do.
Pause before you respond to anything that comes your way. Whether it is an argument with a family member or a text from an ex or even an old friend. Pause and turn your attention to what is bubbling up from this. Try to separate your current self from your inner child before it makes choices that you don't necessarily agree with.
Don’t text them!! You know exactly who I am talking about. When you read those two sentences, someone or multiple people came to mind. Don’t fucking do it. And if you need me to spell it out for you, here you go; Don’t text that person from high school or previous winter breaks that you used to hook up with. The longer you continue that toxic pattern, the longer it is going to take you to heal and be present and successful in your future relationships. Every time y’all hang out and you haven’t both healed from previous emotional trauma - big or small (and trauma can be very subtle) - you are reopening a wound. That wound will trigger patterns and those patterns will not serve you. You’ll find yourself back in your current city feeling emotionally under the weather with no source of pain to point to.
Do your best to not take things personally. I know it is a hard thing to do and this skill takes a lot of time to form, but when a lot of past selves join together (like a family coming together for the holidays), everyone's baggage is getting confused with what is true. Allow people to have their experiences separate from yours.
Don't blame others for your experiences of them. Your internal dialogue is yours. They may trigger a thought process or emotion, but those thoughts and emotions belong entirely to you and you are the only one that can do anything about them.
It's a great day for a day, yall. The kind of day it becomes is a choice that is held only by you. Please share this with at least one person that you think could use the information and tools I have set out here. You can listen to or share an audio version of this blog post in the podcast tab of my website or by searching EQ Book Club wherever you listen to podcasts. I love you. Come back soon.