I’d love for everyone to think about the consistency of their behavioral patterns and tendencies. Do you habitually run from conflict? Do you consistently tell white lies when confronted? Do you consistently drop everything to take care of someone in need? Once you begin to understand your own patterns of behaving, you will understand yourself like never before and you will be given the opportunity to modify the behaviors that no longer serve you.
Now, it takes a while to accumulate enough information to formally identify your true behavioral patterns. A client I had years ago admitted to having a difficult relationship with her father. He behaved in ways that left her feeling like he didn’t love her. In adulthood, she found that the only legitimate person in her life was her mother. She had no friends, limited relations with family, no work relationships, and a dwindling codependent romantic relationship. Given the situation with her father, her challenges in life were understandable and we needed to mend unresolved sadness and anger. In the second phase of therapy, we needed to break down her specific patterns of behaving with other people in order for her to obtain more fulfilling social relationships. We started analyzing the way she behaved with friends. We discovered that she would stay superficial with them, never express real emotion, avoid conflict, and rupture relationships when misunderstandings arose. We moved on to work colleagues, extended family members, and romantic relationships. As it turned out, her behavioral pattern that involved superficiality, repressing emotions, avoiding conflict, and burning bridges were present in almost all other relationships!
I had another client who felt like a failure at work. We pieced together that he had a reliable tendency to quit when he received negative evaluations by his superiors. Not only did he do this at work but he did so in every single social situation in his life. When anyone in his life gave him criticism (constructive or judgemental), he had a tendency to feel bad, leave gatherings, avoid interactions, and break romantic relationships. His behavioral tendencies were an extremely reliable predictor of what he would do in different situations. On a regular basis, he would reliably quit.
What are your habitual patterns? It is this concept I would encourage everyone to understand. The way you behave in all spheres of your life has a pattern. The sooner you decipher your pattern, the sooner you can stop the bad habits and start living the life you want to live.
Moreover, once you understand the reliability of someone’s behavioral patterns, you can use them to decide on whether or not you will enter into relationship with them. For example, have you ever been cheated on, only to realize that it wasn’t the first of your partner’s indiscretions? Well, as per Maya Angelou, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I believe that she was talking about this very topic. Someone’s previous patterns of behavior are undeniable and if they do not seek significant help to change negative patterns, you can expect more of the same behavior in the future.
Behavioral patterns are one of the most reliable measures of how you (and others) will act in the future. I highly recommend you start paying attention.