There’s an old joke I often tell patients. This man wants to borrow a lawnmower from his neighbor. He thinks to himself: “If I ask him to borrow his lawnmower, he’ll probably say he is using it himself. Or he might say that he doesn’t want any extra wear and tear on it. Or maybe he doesn’t want me using up the gas.” Finally, the man goes over to his neighbor’s house and knocks on the door and says:
“Fuck you and keep your lawnmower.”
The joke is about the unconscious expectations we have of other people and how it controls our behavior. It is a lens through which we experience the world. Sometimes I describe it as similar to Bugs Bunny’s Carrot Machine. Whatever he put into it, it came out in the shape of a carrot.
When repetitive patterns control and constrict our lives there is no room for creativity. We literally can’t feel “outside the box.”
What makes people have repeatedly unsatisfying relationships is that we repeat patterns of relating we developed as children. They may have been adaptive when we were children, but they don’t work for us as adults. These patterns are not simply bad habits or bad luck, the patterns recur when a present situation or interaction feels like an old one and triggers a similar response.
We don’t stop repeating these patterns unless we become conscious of them. I will help you become conscious of the patterns that undermine your relationships and/or your success at work.