Why do I keep ending up in the same situations in life?
It’s a question that many of us (including me) have asked ourselves repeatedly. The short answer is: because you’re choosing it. On some level - consciously or unconsciously.
As a coach helping people to be more resilient, it’s often my job to reflect back these choices, to shine a light on the unconscious ones that you may not otherwise have awareness of. The decisions that led you to that place of feeling small, rejected, unworthy etc. can suddenly become clear with the right support - as does the reality that there are other choices available to you. You don’t have to keep repeating these patterns and you’re not as powerless as you might feel. It’s only with this kind of insight that we can be truly resilient.
How does this happen?
When I was writing this piece I started this paragraph with “it’s going to be different for everyone.” But actually, it’s not. We are all different people with different life experiences but we tend to process them in much the same way. And how we process them has a big impact on whether or not we feel resilient. I am no neuroscientist but I do have a lot of experience with how we ensure that we can’t be more resilient thanks to how we process the information that comes at us. And I think this all comes down to your core beliefs plus the part of your brain that filters information you receive from the outside world.
How to understand your mind to be more resilient
Ok, let’s start with core beliefs. These are the deeply held - often unconscious - beliefs that you have about yourself and the world around you. Core beliefs are formed in childhood before age seven. They could be positive or negative. If you’re repeatedly ending up in the same situations then there are probably some negative ones in the mix (which is the case for most of us).
If you want to be more resilient then the process is going to begin by unearthing what these actually are - because negative core beliefs can sit silently in your unconscious mind and you may not even be aware of them. But their impact can be broad, like ripples on a pond. For example:
Core belief: I am not worthy of love.
Your reality: Picking emotionally (or physically) unavailable partners. Suppressing your relationship needs. Avoiding vulnerability. A lot of anxiety and fear. Not feeling good enough. Worrying that if you show people who you really are they won’t want you anymore. Repeatedly being dumped or ending up stuck in unhappy relationships.
Core belief: Even my best efforts are not good enough.
Your reality: Procrastination. Constantly feeling stuck or like things never work out. Avoiding taking risks. Not doing anything without a guarantee of success. Giving up. Low self-esteem. Aiming low. Never finishing things. Repeatedly missing out on opportunities others seem to get easily, not progressing, feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled.
Core belief: If people see who I really am they won’t like it.
Your reality: People pleasing. Defensiveness. Feeling very triggered by the thought of rejection. Controlling behaviour. Avoiding real intimacy. Having ‘personas’ for work, home, relationships, parenting etc. Repeatedly feeling lonely or isolated, ending relationships - or being rejected - whether they are friendships, partners, work colleagues or business relationships.
We tend to manifest our core beliefs, whether we want to or not, which is why it’s so important to understand what’s driving you. If you feel like you keep ending up in the same situations in life then it’s likely that these are the cause. But what about the way our brain uses these deeply held beliefs?
Science or manifestation?
The Reticular Activating System is a bundle of nerves in your brain stem. Its purpose is to look for information that validates your beliefs – and it uses this to filter the information coming into your brain from the world around you. In this context, the parameters you establish for your Reticular Activating System come from your core beliefs and the goals you set. Whatever these are, this part of the brain will look for evidence of it – and it will stop you from seeing anything that doesn’t support these core beliefs and goals.
So, let’s just stop there for a second because I want this to sink in - you don’t just see what exists, you see what your brain wants you to see. And it wants you to see whatever aligns with your core beliefs about yourself and the things you’re working towards.
So, let’s think about that in a work context for a second. If you have a deeply held core belief that you are only capable of earning a certain amount of money then your reticular activating system will only look out for opportunities within that limit. If deep down you don’t feel worthy of being in a better role then you aren’t going to notice the opportunities that exist around you that could make an upgrade happen.
Be aware of how your brain filters information if you want to be more resilient
The Reticular Activating System is essentially a sort of scientific explanation for how manifestation works - you’re not thinking something into being, but putting it front and centre of the focus for your brain while feeding it information that this thing is possible. Together, these elements have a big role to play in where the choices you make - and the options you believe you have - will eventually lead you.
Our brains can’t process every piece of data we receive from the world around us so the Reticular Activating System chooses what’s relevant – and what we see. The things that suddenly seem to appear to help you reach a goal – and the signs that show you the way – were probably always there. But they were previously filtered out because there was no cue in the Reticular Activating System (e.g. a belief or a goal) that made them relevant. And this is one of the reasons that we tend to end up repeating patterns - because we’re programmed to notice the things that conform to those patterns and not to see the people/opportunities/paths that don’t.
Change is always possible
Believe me, I know how heavy the feeling is that there is something unconscious driving you down all the wrong paths. But I also know how simple it is to change this. It starts with awareness of the core beliefs that you have - and there are lots of ways to build this, from noticing the messaging of your inner critic to the inherited beliefs from your childhood. And then after that you can rewire them.
In many ways, this simply comes down to evidence - showing your brain that there is evidence for the opposite of a negative core belief (because there always is) so that a more optimistic statement about yourself and the world starts to be more believable. And once you’ve done that, in many ways, the Reticular Activating System does the rest. It’s a wonderful thing the way the mind works - resilience coaching will help you to use all the tools you already have to make these powerful changes happen.
You can find any number of ways to be more resilient but there are two factors that are guaranteed to make a difference. The first is becoming aware of your core beliefs, as a prelude to rewiring the ones that are making life difficult. The second is understanding how your brain handles this information so that you can start programming it to serve you rather than hold you back. All of this comes under the remit of what you can do with resilience coaching - get in touch to book an intro call and find out more.