The Pattern Interrupt

One of the best methods we have for overriding unwanted behaviour and habits is a Pattern Interrupt. A Pattern Interrupt is exactly what it sounds like, an interruption to a pattern of behaviour so we can adopt a new pattern. When in the middle of a task that happens mostly unconsciously(like tying our shoes, or feeling an emotional sting of an event from our past), interrupting the pattern can open up our mind to suggestion or influence, and instill a great  opportunity for change in our subconscious mind. The interruption itself then becomes part of the pattern, and helps to permanently break unwanted habits or patterns of behaviour.

The goal of a pattern interrupt is to break the chain of causation that makes us feel trapped by the habit, and find ways we can apply new behaviours once we break a pattern. Try to immediately take advantage of the interrupt by beginning a more productive task, and you will slowly break all the associations to the old pattern, until the old pattern never reveals itself again.

The good news for our patterns is, our brains aren’t telling us time properly. Experiments demonstrated that there is approximately a 500 millisecond(half-second) delay before we perceive something once a stimulation has been introduced. Our minds, however, often makes it so you don’t even notice this gap, you just experience a seamless representation of reality. It appears to us as if no delay occurred at all.

This is good news because this lag time gives us a half second before we would have naturally interpreted an event, and interrupt the habitual pattern with new, more desired behaviour.

One Breath Pattern Interrupt

Dave Dobson, a world renowned hypnotherapist, often taught a very simple technique for interrupting a pattern, by sighing, which is really nothing more than the famous One Breath Meditation technique(this is also why breathing meditation is so beneficial for emotional issues). The purpose of a sigh is to pull ourselves out of being wrapped up in an emotion or event, and step back from what we habitually try to act on. Animals and humans are both seen to sigh on occasion, and sighing is nothing more than a method for releasing our pent up emotions and residual thought forms; we often see people sigh during arguments or confrontation and other high stress situations like sitting in traffic, or waiting in doctor’s offices. A sigh is a pattern interrupt for our current emotional state.

One of the key’s to Dobson’s method was how we played the role of the interruption once it happened; we have to be able to see the humor of our situation, and the wonderful drama of being wrapped up in our lives. According to Dobson, we give power to habitual energy by taking life, and ourselves, too seriously. To help see an old pattern in this humorous light, it helps to try to imagine if we wanted to fit into our favourite clothes from when we were 3 years old. The old pattern(clothes) ‘suited’ us at the time, but we’ve merely outgrown it.

This is a wonderful way to cultivate a more regular One Breath practice. Don’t underestimate the power of the technique; even with all these other fancy methods on this blog, don’t get distracted from the basics.

Work to find other ways you can interrupt patterns of behaviour and habitual thought forms. This can be done with anything and everything; maybe you interrupt the pattern of zonking out infront of the TV for a few hours with a jog, or you interrupt the pattern of having that second piece of cake when you know a glass of water and some carrot sticks will be more satisfying(it really will be, trust me).

Or maybe you just need to interrupt the pattern of going onto the internet when you have an important assignement to finish. Slow down, take a deep breath, and find the ridiculousness of that idea. Interrupt the pattern, consciously.

Finally, take it in stride, and be aware that a pattern performed 10,000 times might take a few pattern interrupts to break your association to it. Often times this process can be 2 steps forward, 1 step back.

When’s the last time you performed One Breath?


About OneBreathMeditation

I have been meditating for 8 years, and while I don't consider myself an expert, I know I'm knowledgeable about the subject, and can possibly provide help to others who want to experience the enriching benefits of meditation.
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5 Responses to The Pattern Interrupt

  1. rococonnor says:

    I really like the connection of this technique with the breathing meditation… I find I do sigh when I suddenly let go of a lot of thinking as awareness reasserts itself… I had never made the connection… a lovely insight.

  2. livvy1234 says:

    Excellent article on relieving suffering. We need to teach this to children when they are young. Another thing one might try is Panoramic Awareness. This was taught by Chogyam Trungpa. One diffuses the thought by taking in the sounds, interplay of shadow and light on a wall, the dew on the leaves, body scanning, the flicker of an eyelash…all that is happening around oneself in the moment. Or one can look down at one’s feet…the obsessive thinking stops. The mind drops out.

  3. nikky44 says:

    I need to try that. In fact one of the “negative” things I do and that I need to break, is that when facing a very stressful situation, I unconsciously hold my breath and i don’t realize it until I get dizzy from not breathing 😦

  4. Thomas Ross says:

    I like this post. Although it offers good insights into meditation practice, it also reminds me of the idea that in human relations we often find ourselves in habitual patterns of negative interaction. We have the same fight again and again with our partner. We feel the same resentments. And so on. It is like a terrible play that we reenact over and over. So you must break the pattern. If you act differently, you interrupt the habitual pattern. It’s a start to a new pattern, hopefully a better one.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  5. Stella Ferry - Awakening the Soul Magazine, Classes and Soul Integration Workshops says:

    Reblogged this on AWAKENING THE SOUL MAGAZINE and commented:
    Interrupting a pattern by One Breath Meditation. For other technique try NLP Pattern Interrupt Process

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