Life Lessons with Erin Kincaid: Pattern Interrupt

ROCKWALL, TX (May 17, 2023) May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Scour the internet and you will find endless memes, motivational bits and pieces on how to live your best life and how to identify and grow to your best you by addressing mental health issues. I thought I’d take a helicopter view and share some sage wisdom on the subject.

Mental health care is all about pattern interrupt. Pattern interrupt is a way to change a person’s mental, emotional, or behavioral state to break or shift out ot unwanted habits. Think of it as an unanticipated action or a thought process which pushes a person into another pattern, thought, action, behavior or state of mind. And, at the end of the day, that is the crux of all mental health care. Whether it is a psychiatrist managing medication with a patient, a marriage and family therapist administering counsel, or a pastoral counselor walking someone through heart and behavior choices, it is all about pattern interrupt. Professional counselors have been schooled in one of the many veins of mental health care and their job is to zone in on the patterns that are no longer working for their client and help navigate that pattern break.

For those who perform mental health care through psychiatric care in assessment, diagnosis and medication, they are looking to interrupt patterns in the brain and body that are no longer functioning correctly. Their job is to stop neural pathways from traveling to places that cause lower functioning or erratic, harmful thoughts and behavior. Sometimes, it is through hormone treatment or dietary changes that patterns are reset and stabilized. For the traditional talk therapy professional, patterns are interrupted through self-awareness strategies, past memory recall and exercises which help a person build new thought mindsets and skills. A counselor seeks to interrupt patterns which a person has formed through maladaptive thinking or influences.

So what does this mean for us? It means that we can join forces with the professionals and look for our own patterns to change. If you are seeing a professional, looking deeper into the way you do things brings about insights for your sessions that will help guide the process of change. For those who have or may never darken the doorway of a counselor, you can still do the work to find areas of improvement. The key is to watch for the patterns. How do you respond to people who make you feel uncomfortable or upset? How do you speak to your children or spouse? How do you set yourself up for tasks and chores? How do you talk to yourself?  Starting with just a few questions in these areas can help pinpoint areas where the patterns you have set are no longer working for you. As the adage goes, if you keep doing what you are doing, you are going to keep getting what you are getting. 

After you have identified some of the patterns, this is where you must ask yourself two things: what am I getting from this and is it working for me? The truth is, we do what we do because we are getting something out of it. It may not be healthy or good for us, but there is something to it and that is why we stick with it. It can be very hard work to change the constancy of old habits. The self-awareness that comes with recognizing patterns must be paired with the process of realizing what is no longer helping us, even if it is our regular way of doing things. If you must raise your voice to your partner as a way of getting him or her to do things you need done, this pattern may get you what you need but may in fact, be maladaptive and unhealthy. What you’re getting out of the pattern is task completion but at what cost? The pattern of bullish yelling and screaming gets the job done but is not viable because it is rooted in unhealthy behaviors, as most maladaptive patterns are. The work to change that pattern must commence and learning where to shift that mindset or find the new inroad is the task at hand.

This is not easy. This is why we have a mental health care industry. Mental health care is not only for those who suffer from mental illness, but for those who have developed patterns and habits that no longer work for them. Things we learned in our childhood, from our parents or past relationships need to be called out, unlearned and new pathways charted. When people seek mental health care, they seek peace from the troubles (and storms) within their minds, relationships and lives. The opposite of peace is chaos. Chaos is defined as unpredictable but the truth is, in most people, a mental health provider can predict behavior by looking at the patterns in the chaos. It is the interruption of those patterns and the establishment of new ways that bring about peace filled change and a mindset rooted in stability and security.

This is work you can start today. You can become the detective in your own life, rooting out that which no longer serves you. If you find that you need a little help along the way, that is why we have counselors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. Each trained in a different modality to help you find your new best way to live. Let’s embrace this month of mental health awareness by taking a look at our own lives and seeing where and how we can bring about change. With this as our focus, I’ll leave you with a little musical therapy to inspire you:

“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

I have been changed for good.: – Wicked

To listen in to the whole song, click here: https://youtu.be/TZ0pXUb5jVU



Guest column by Erin Kincaid, Founder and Clinical Director of Rockwall Heath Counseling. She holds a host of degrees in Psychology, Christian Counseling, Anthropology and is working toward her PhD in Clinical Counseling.

Erin lives in Rockwall with her husband and son. Look for more of her guest columns here.