Identify Unhealthy Behavioral Themes in You and Others

Unhealthy Behavioral ThemesHave you ever wondered why there is a theme to how things turn out for you in certain situations? It is likely that you are looking at the situation (or reacting to it) in the same manner – so the results will form a pattern or theme. If you like the results, then there is not a problem. However, if you are not liking the results maybe it’s time to examine the thinking and action that is underlying your decisions. You can begin to identify unhealthy behavioral themes and make the necessary changes to get the results you are wanting.

Examples of Behavioral Themes:

  1. Dating the same kind of people that don’t make you feel good about yourself
  2. Wondering why you seem to only attract people who are looking to “hook up” instead of a relationship
  3. In dating, choosing the same kind of person that will not commit to the relationship regardless of their words
  4. Finding you make purchases that you later regret
  5. Eating certain things that you later regret or feel badly in doing so
  6. Taking jobs you do not want and do not make you happy
  7. Often being disappointed in people
  8. Getting upset about a friend always being late
  9. Feeling that people do not care about what you want
  10. Making commitments you later regret
  11. Having a belief that people always let you down or disappoint you
  12. Feeling that your friends never reach out to you to get together

Identify the thinking that is underlying the various themes:

Everything we do is for a purpose. We are consciously or subconsciously looking for a particular end result. When we are not happy with the results, we need to identify and understand the circumstances and thinking that go into those results.

For example, let’s take a look at the likely purpose behind each of the above examples. One way or another it involves our degree of Self-Worth.

Theme # 1: Fear of Intimacy -or- Unhealthy Self-Esteem

  1. Dating the same kind of people that don’t make you feel good about yourself.
  2. Wondering why you seem to only attract people who are looking to “hook up” instead of a relationship.
  3. In dating, choosing the same kind of person that will not commit to the relationship regardless of their words

Discussion: Most often this comes back to your self-esteem not being in a healthy place. We attract those people to us whose self-esteem is about the same level as ours. You need to identify those qualities that are similar in each of those people who fit this profile for you. And recognize these unhealthy qualities early on. (Hopefully at the very beginning of dating if not before!)

Secondly, take a look at your own self-esteem. Do you see yourself as your best friends who value you see you? If not, it’s time to take an inventory of how you see yourself and align your view of Self closer to the view of you by your healthy friends. We are all more judging of ourselves than we are of others. Do you feel you deserve and can be in a healthy relationship?

Lastly, the other possible theme is fear of intimacy. With intimacy we risk getting hurt and experiencing loss. If we never engage intimately with a person then for sure we will never know real love. Important: True intimacy with a healthy person is about love, being valued, feeling emotionally secure in the relationship and that the person sees your “good, bad and the ugly” and doesn’t care because the good is so good to that person.

Therefore it is easier to feel safe and secure, which results in less fear of loss and hurt. Also, those with intimacy issues believe that others define their worth. So the better the person knows you the more likely they are to see what you devalue about yourself and they will begin to see you in the same way. And they will eventually leave you. This is the fear that causes an avoidance of true intimacy in many people.

Theme # 2: Buying Things -or- Eating Unhealthy Food or Overeating

  1. Making purchases that you later regret
  2. Eating certain things that you later regret or feel badly in doing so

Discussion: Most often these behaviors are about our mood and trying to have moments of feeling emotionally better than we do in our regular life. You need to identify what is making you unhappy. What stops you from doing what is healthier for you? How would you feel if you didn’t do these behaviors? Those are the things that you are avoiding and will not go away until those issues are resolved.

Theme # 3: Not Valuing Yourself Enough-Lowering the Bar of Happiness

  1. Taking jobs you do not want and do not make you happy
  2. Often being disappointed in people

Discussion: We may take a job we know we do not want because we fear not having money. Or it’s about devaluing ourselves so we feel we need to take whatever we can find. Do you feel you deserve and are competent enough to have the job you really want? Or do you “lower the bar” to avoid be disappointed yet another time? Do you fear you will not be able to do what you really want because you are not “good enough”? When we don’t ask for what we want, or are afraid to really go after what we want, we feel we are not worthy of it. And we don’t want to risk feeling disappointed when we don’t get it.

Theme # 4: Having Unrealistic Expectations of Others – Being Unassertive – Devaluing Yourself

  1. Getting upset about a friend always being late
  2. Feeling that people do not care about what you want
  3. Making commitments you later regret
  4. Having a belief that people always let you down or disappoint you
  5. Feeling that your friends never reach out to you to get together

Discussion: Once again the theme is about devaluing your self-worth and feeling you need to please people for them to want to be around you. It can involve one of two major themes:

    1. You devalue yourself, and your friends do care but don’t know what to do to make things better for you. If you don’t assert yourself and ask for what you want, it’s a lot of work for others to have to guess. We are all responsible for our own needs in terms of asking for what we want. When we don’t assert ourselves we tend to attract those who will take advantage of our lack of assertion.
    2. Or: You have the wrong “friends” around you. You shouldn’t have to always please someone to be liked by them.

Action Plan:

  1. Identify themes in your behavior that do not work for you. What is it you are trying to accomplish?
  2. What gets in the way of you doing what would be more assertive or healthy?
  3. Do you have the right people around you who are emotionally healthy?
  4. Do you have a fear of intimacy and loss? This needs to be addressed in order to be in a healthy relationship. Again, it is about one’s self-esteem and deserving happiness.
  5. What is it in this article that you most identify with? Does that issue keep you from being happy?
  6. Don’t be hesitant in seeking professional assistance. These are important issues and we don’t always understand what is fully involved. Again, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Next Blog: Our Comfort Zone: How It Affects Our Life, Relationships, Employment

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on YourTango.com and on MSN.com.

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