Kim Molnar
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Patterns of Behaviors

An event occurs and we respond. This response leads to additional thoughts, feelings and actions. This pattern of behavior leads to additional events, thoughts, feelings and actions. For example, parents divorce, the child blames themselves and thinks if only I was a better child, they feel sad, the parents often yell at the child, which confirms the belief that they are a bad child, they feel sad and angry, they then start engaging in bad behavior, such as hitting in school, which they get in trouble for and continue to feel like a bad child, and think they are a bad child.

As you can see from the above example, behaviors occur in patterns of events, thoughts, feelings and actions. Both healthy and unhealthy actions occur in patterns. Let’s look at an example of a healthy behavior pattern. You feel uncomfortable with how you feel and decide you are going to improve your eating and exercise pattern. You feel yucky and want to feel good. You join a gym, buy gym clothes; you go to the gym and work out. In order to engage in those behaviors you may think to your self “I need to go to the gym” and feel motivated or “I can’t wait to workout, I know I am going to feel better.” And feel happy. After you go you feel good and think, "that felt great". So you go again and continue to feel good and think thoughts that keep you motivated. Again this pattern involves thoughts, feelings and actions.

Feelings lead to thinking which leads to more feelings which leads to more thinking which leads to actions. This is an example of a linear pattern. Of course not everyone has this exact pattern. Just be aware that each influences the other.

A healthy pattern of behavior is easier to stop then an unhealthy pattern of behavior. I’m not sure why this is; I just know that it is. A pattern of behavior can be viewed either in a line such as thought leads to feelings leads to actions or as a circle in which one follows the other. Regardless of how you view it intervening in an unhealthy pattern requires a healthy pattern. To say don’t do something is not enough to stop a behavior. Ever hear anyone say “quit eating and you will lose weight?” If it were that easy obviously the person would have cut back on what they were eating. Most people know that they should eat less or eat more healthy foods and less unhealthy foods. The reason they have difficulty is that they don’t know what else to do. Other situations require an immediate stop to the behavior such as if your children are hitting one another you will stop the behavior immediately. Often the children will return to hitting as they need to know what to do instead of hitting. The what to do is the healthy pattern of behavior. This includes prevention-before the situation gets to the point of hitting and intervention-when it gets to the point of hitting. A healthy pattern of behavior or cycle includes thoughts, feelings and actions that lead to healthy behaviors. Healthy thoughts are those thoughts that challenge our thinking errors. For example, to stop siblings from hitting one another you would teach them how to resolve problems by giving them examples of what they could do when they are getting angry: walk away, find an adult in the home, find another activity, take a deep breath, and ask themselves is this important? A healthy pattern of behavior would involve more than the brief example given here but it is a quick example to give you an idea of what a healthy pattern of behavior would look like.

In order to change our pattern of behavior we need to learn to manage our FAT (feelings, actions and thoughts). Fortunately we only need to change one or two of these as the other will change when we change the others. As you will see on the triangle below on each tip of the triangle you will see FAT, which stands for feelings, actions, thoughts. In a triangle the three angles always add up to 180 degrees. If you change one angle, either one or both of the other angles must change. This is the same in managing our FAT. If you change your thoughts, then your feelings and then actions will change. For example, most people do not think “this is a great day”, feel happy and then punch someone in the nose. Those actions do not match the feelings and thoughts. Conversely, people do not think “this is a horrible day”, feel angry and then go give someone a hug.


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