Pattern Interrupt Methods:
Or, How to Get Unstuck in Infinite Ways

What you’re getting into:

6,317 words, 23 minute read time

Key Points:
  • Many change techniques utilize “pattern interrupts” that disrupt a feedback loop.
  • Most methods insist that their specific steps are essential, but nearly any pattern interrupt will work.
  • You can creatively adapt Pattern Interrupt Methods to work best for you, and this makes change even easier and more fun.
  • Pattern Interrupt Methods can be used to clear past memories, present moods, anticipated futures, or possibly even weird body stress symptoms.


Introduction: An Abundance of Techniques

Most people believe that it is impossible — or at least extremely difficult — to change automatic feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Luckily, that’s completely false!

For the past few hundred thousand years, there really haven’t been very many precise, effective change techniques. Methods that did work were cloaked in superstition and secrecy, or only worked for a small percentage of people.

But now we live in an age of abundance. At the annual Hypnothoughts Live conference, there are hundreds of methods taught every year for transforming our unconscious feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

And that’s just in the hypnosis world. There are thousands of new therapy, coaching, and spiritual techniques being invented every year. Heck, I’ve invented a bunch of methods myself.

Feedback Loops

One thing many of these techniques have in common is a negative feedback loop, as it’s called in systems theory.

In this case, the word “negative” doesn’t mean “bad” or “unwanted,” it means “decreasing.” A negative feedback loop decreases the intensity of the signal with each pass through the loop. To avoid confusion with the other connotations of the word “negative,” I’ll call this a decreasing feedback loop.

By contrast, a positive feedback loop increases the intensity of the signal with each pass through the loop. “Positive” doesn’t mean “good” or “desired” but “increasing.” For clarity’s sake, I’ll call this an increasing feedback loop.

So we have decreasing feedback loops and increasing feedback loops.

Let me give you an example. Imagine a person feels stressed from work, so they stay up late watching YouTube videos to relax. They wake up groggy, having not gotten enough sleep, which makes the next work day more stressful. Since they come home even more stressed, this leads to even more YouTube watching the next night. Soon this becomes a pattern they find it difficult to break out of.

Most of the time we think linearly, “A causes B.” But often output from B can feed back to A, creating a loop.

If we ask “does work stress cause the YouTube watching, or does watching YouTube cause work stress?” we’re asking the wrong question. We ask questions like that because we see things as linear causation, rather than a cycle, a loop.

Confusing lines for loops is why we struggle to solve many of our supposedly “complex” human problems. But they aren’t really complex at all! It’s just a matter of interrupting the loop. Then “obvious” solutions appear.

Increasing Feedback Loops

To understand an increasing feedback loop, think of a microphone placed next to the speaker it’s being amplified through.

A tiny buzz quickly grows into an annoying booming sound, as the sound input gets amplified and then fed back into the mic, over and over again very rapidly. That’s an increasing feedback loop. The signal increases more and more with each cycle.

This is also how panic attacks, addictions, and many other human problems work. In a panic attack, a person might fear getting anxious, which ironically makes them anxious, causing unpleasant bodily symptoms, which they then worry about, which increases anxiety and so on until they max out their panic state. Just worrying about getting a panic attack is enough for some people to give themselves a panic attack.

Luckily there is an alternative way to run our brains. A decreasing feedback loop decreases the intensity of the signal with each pass through the loop. So if we are trying to reduce the intensity of an emotion, all we need to do is introduce a decreasing feedback loop, then repeat it a bunch of times until calm.

Decreasing Feedback Loops

To understand a decreasing feedback loop, think of a thermostat set to 68° F in Winter. As the furnace heats up the room, a thermometer measures the room air temperature. It continues to do so until the thermometer reads the room temperature is over 70° F, then turns off the signal to the furnace.

Once the air cools to 66° F, the thermostat stops inhibiting the furnace and allows it to heat the room again. The main purpose of a thermostat is actually to turn off the furnace, so the room doesn’t get too warm (or for air conditioning, so the room does not get too cold).

Similarly, the purpose of many change techniques is to inhibit the body’s stress response, to prevent you from feeling too stressed out about something. If you then practice this enough times, it becomes automatic, and the formerly stressful thing is no longer a problem.

Changing the System

Almost everything in life can be best understood in terms of feedback loops, so called “systems thinking.” But humans tend to think in terms of linear causation.

We think the problem must be “X causes Y.” Then we go look for what — or whom — is to blame, not realizing that it’s “X causes Y which causes Z which causes X….” In other words, it’s a loop, not a line. It’s not the individual parts, it’s the system.

This is why many of our problems seem “impossible” to change — not because they’re actually impossible, but because we keep thinking circles are straight lines. Our linear thinking causes us to ask not-so-useful questions like “Which is broken, the microphone or the speaker?” or “What’s wrong with my brain?”

Because we aren’t thinking in terms of feedback loops, the simple solutions to our problems are completely hidden from us.

In the case of the microphone, nothing is broken. We don’t need to fix anything, replace anything, or even unplug anything. We just need to point things in the right direction.

And the same is true of many of our “impossible” problems. Once we are pointed in the right direction, we realize we were never broken in the first place, and things just work.

I once read of a guy who cured his panic attacks with “one weird trick.” Every time he felt one coming on, he said to himself, “YES! WHOOHOO! I love it! Bring it on! Let’s see how intense you can get!” And then ironically, the feeling would decrease more and more.

By doing something very weird, he figured out how to interrupt the pattern. As a result, he began calming down instead of ramping up.

This specific trick might not be the key for everyone who’s experiencing panic. But the basic idea of interrupting the pattern by doing something counterintuitive is generally useful.

Pattern interrupts allow us to stop the increasing feedback loop, to get off “the wheel of Samsara,” and to have a choice to do things differently.

In the next section, we’ll cover how specifically to do that.


Interrupting the Pattern of Stress

Change techniques that utilize decreasing feedback loops I call “Pattern Interrupt Methods.” Whether they involve tapping on the body, moving the eyes back and forth, or doing other strange things, all Pattern Interrupt Methods follow the same basic steps.

I lived with debilitating anxiety for 25 years, and I was able to reduce it by at least 99.99% thanks in large part to Pattern Interrupt Methods. The vast majority of people with anxiety never experience results like mine.

I believe this isn’t because it’s especially difficult, but simply because people don’t know how. This is in part because almost all advice for personal change is for complete beginners. So I hope you will enjoy going into more geeky detail in this section of my little essay.

The pattern that we are interrupting is whatever you are wanting to change. As discussed in part 1, our tricky problems usually have the structure of a feedback loop. Our attempted solutions to the problem often are part of the loop itself, helping to maintain the problem.

For example, let’s say a child “misbehaves.” A parent severely punishes the child. To rebel from such harsh punishment, the child “misbehaves” even more. The attempted solution of severe punishment causes more of the unwanted behavior. This is a classic increasing feedback loop.

A pattern interrupt is anything that actually disrupts that loop. It tends to be something wacky or counterintuitive, because it’s outside of our normal loop, and thus outside of the choices we see as available to us.

In the case of the misbehaving child and the parent, a pattern interrupt might be if the child “misbehaves” the parent would celebrate by saying, “YAAAY! Look at you choosing to do what you want! Way to go!”

That sounds very strange. But by celebrating the child’s autonomy, this radically different approach might open up the possibility for doing something different to actually meet that need for autonomy, while also meeting the needs of the parent.

Interestingly though, you can really do almost anything differently to interrupt a pattern. It doesn’t have to be related to the problem at all. It can even be formulaic or completely random and still work.

Looping Pattern Interrupts

Pattern Interrupt Methods don’t just interrupt things once, but loop again and again. They create a decreasing feedback loop until the whole system calms down.

The basic structure of all the Pattern Interrupt Methods is something like this:

  1. First, think about a problem until you are feeling bad.
  2. Next, do something to interrupt the pattern, so you don’t feel that way for 2-20 minutes.
  3. Finally, think about it again and notice if you feel completely or partially better.
  4. Repeat this process until you don’t feel bad when you think about the thing.

As simple as this is, it’s very effective. Many techniques that transform traumatic memories associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) use this basic pattern, such as the Trauma Tapping Technique (TTT), Eye Movement Integration (EMI), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and so on.

While I’m not a psychotherapist and thus don’t treat conditions like PTSD, I’ve used this sort of thing on myself and with coaching clients for a wide variety of problems. It’s not the only way to work, but it’s surprisingly effective.

Pattern Interrupt Methods as a Decreasing Feedback Loop

Here’s a flowchart showing how Pattern Interrupt Methods work, not just with tapping or eye movements but many such methods:

There are slight variations on this theme, but this is the basic idea. Sometimes instead of “recording automatic thoughts, feelings, sensations,” it’s just be aware of them, or rate the intensity of emotion on a 0 to 10 scale. You can also use what I call “The Magic Circle” which I discuss later in part 3.

This basic structure is seen in many methods such as…

  • Thought Field Therapy (TFT)
  • Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
  • Trauma Tapping Technique (TTT)
  • Eye Movement Integration (EMI)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • New Code Games created by NLP founder John Grinder
  • Zen Motivation from Mike Bundrant
  • And much, much more.

Ultimately though, they are all just examples of the same approach. You interrupt a pattern over and over until an unresourceful state is completely gone.

Then we are truly free.

Tapping Techniques

Let’s take a specific example. We’ll pick the Trauma Tapping Technique (TTT), which I have used many times with myself and clients.

  1. First a person picks a specific unpleasant memory from the past, recalls it, and notices how intense the feeling is 0 to 10.
  2. Then they do the tapping sequence: tap on the body 15 times in each of 14 places, take two deep breaths, repeat the tapping on the other side of the body, then another two deep breaths.
  3. Finally, they think about the memory again and notice the intensity of feeling 0 to 10 now. Often it goes down by a point or two, sometimes it clears out to zero.
  4. If it’s not yet zero (calm), then they repeat the tapping sequence. Then again they think about the memory and rate the intensity of feeling 0 to 10. And so on until they feel calm thinking about the memory.

TTT is but one of many methods that involve tapping on the body. The standard explanation of how tapping works is that you are tapping on acupressure points to “balance your energies.”

But we don’t have to accept this explanatory framework at all to see that it could work simply by means of introducing a decreasing feedback loop. In other words, the tapping could simply be a pattern interrupt.

By briefly interrupting the positive feedback loop of “think of memory, feel bad, think of memory again, feel worse,” the feeling decreases with each round of tapping.

Similar effects are found in eye movement techniques which instead of tapping on the body involve moving the eyes back and forth in a prescribed pattern. These techniques are explained by “bilateral hemispheric stimulation” and other neurobabble.

But even though the explanatory mechanism is goofy, the fact is, it works. Many people have used weird eye movements to heal from intense negative experiences.

Whether or not there are energies being balanced or brain hemispheres being stimulated, we know for sure that patterns are being interrupted. And that’s all that’s needed to create change.

It’s probably also helpful for many people to have a story, a narrative that gives the process meaning. This is perhaps why people get so attached their specific steps and their explanation for how it all works, even it’s just a useful myth.

If we need a narrative, we can talk about interrupting feedback loops, clearing out stress, getting unstuck and into the flow, tapping into pure possibility, achieving liberation from suffering, or something like that.

There are many wonderful stories we could tell about pattern interrupts. We don’t even have to get stuck in a loop of telling the same story over and over either, we can tell it differently every time if we want.

Beyond Protocols to Pure Possibilities

To test whether the specific methods matter, I’ve deliberately experimented with tapping on unsanctioned parts of the body, for instance the back of the head, the bottoms of the feet, and the inner thighs. That works just as well for me as the official points.

I’ve also tried “tapping” with a whole hand instead of just a couple fingers. That also works. So the specific acupressure points, with the recommended number of taps, in the order prescribed, doesn’t seem to matter at all, except as a convincer to the conscious mind that you are “doing something.”

In fact, people have already broken the mold many times with these techniques. EFT was a simplification of TFT. In the original TFT, you had to first diagnose which points to tap on based on a series of tests. Also the TFT training cost many thousands of dollars. EFT was designed to be a much simpler process you could just do with everyone, no diagnosis needed, and was basically given away for free.

The Trauma Tapping Technique was a further simplification of EFT, removing the spoken component so there wouldn’t be a language barrier. TTT has been used in Rwanda and the Congo since 2007 to treat survivors of genocide with PTSD symptoms. The local people modified it even more by adding in singing and dancing to the tapping, often done in a group setting. Talk about a powerful pattern interrupt!

EMDR began as a technique that used lateral eye movements, but has evolved into other weird pattern interrupts like holding two buzzers that go back and forth between the right hand and left hand.

So the specific protocols clearly have already changed many times already. That means we don’t have to stick to the steps in any of these techniques. We can get creative with it.

Non-Tapping Pattern Interrupts

In addition to tapping on the body, I’ve also tried doing jumping jacks, pushups, and other exercises, dancing to music, singing songs, juggling balls, doing breathing exercises, looking at an object very closely and studying its details, listening to the sound of the wind, and hundreds of other “pattern interrupts” and have found that they all work about equally well. A few were duds, like playing Sudoku as a pattern interrupt — I found I ended up playing Sudoku for way too long and forgot what I was doing!

With clients I’ve often found that one pattern interrupt will work better than another, for unknown reasons. For one person it’s the standard tapping sequence, for another it’s better to add in eye movements, for a third person throwing a ball back and forth between the hands, for another a short dance party, and so on.

Eye Movement Methods

As mentioned before, there are many eye movement methods that can be described as Pattern Interrupt Methods. They all follow this basic pattern: think about the problem and notice how you feel, move your eyes in a specific way, think about the problem again and notice how you feel now, move your eyes again, and repeat until calm. But I’ve found you can move your eyes in almost any way whatsoever and it seems to work, with some individual variation.

One NLP trainer told me that moving the eyes up and down in various ways seemed to be key for her, but that isn’t even included in most eye movement techniques such as EMDR that only utilize horizontal movements.

For others, the lateral eye movements work amazingly well. A distant family member of mine with bipolar did self-guided EMDR using a YouTube video one time. Somehow he transformed a lifetime of trauma in that one session, resolving his bipolar symptoms — something everyone, including me, thought impossible. This happened years ago, and I’m still shocked!

Beyond Fixed Methods

So maybe it’s not the specific tapping points or the specific eye movements that matter. More likely, all these things are just pattern interrupts. By interrupting the pattern over and over, you create a decreasing feedback loop and ultimately transform the feeling.

Perhaps getting creative with the pattern interrupt and not sticking to a specific series of steps could be more effective than doing the “correct” sequence! The truth is, nobody really knows. As far as I know, few people have run this experiment for themselves.

I find that many people get stuck in the particular sequence they were taught. They believe theirs is The One True Way. But this is just another pattern that can limit us, another loop we can get stuck in. What if the liberation was found in the creativity, in tapping into, however briefly, an experience of pure possibility?

People I know who have run this experiment conclude similar things to me. The specifics don’t seem to matter much, or at least not in any particular way. Often getting creative with it works as well or better than following the prescribed steps, as long as you loop back over and over from the problem state to a pattern interrupt, and persist until you resolve it completely.

Combining Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic

Interestingly, many of the official Pattern Interrupt Methods include multiple things tacked together, often that involve doing weird things in multiple senses.

For example, in the original Emotional Freedom Technique, you start by rubbing on the body while saying an affirmation out loud, then tap on the body while saying a phrase, then hum and count out loud, then move the eyes in a particular sequence, then tap again while saying a phrase.

Why not involve multiple senses to completely shift your state? We can even create our own pattern interrupts that have Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic elements.

I like to make them purposely bizarre and creative. My wife suggested we try doing this with colored cards that have goofy pattern interrupts written on them. I wrote things on the cards like, “Light a candle and stare at the flame as if to become absorbed in it,” “Hum the Star Spangled Banner,” and “Throw 1-3 balls in as many patterns as possible.” You can do the things sequentially, one after another, or even try to do them simultaneously!

I find the more out-of-the-box, the more effectively the pattern gets interrupted. When I do really strange stuff, it’s as if it gets me in a very creative, learning state. And it’s as fun as playing a board game with friends! Having an element of randomness also keeps things fresh, possibly triggering neural plasticity.

There is no rule that change has to be serious and painful. Why not make it easier and more enjoyable?


Clearing Past, Present, Future, and Beyond!

Pattern Interrupt Methods are often designed to transform past trauma. That said, they can also be applied to present moods as well as any stress we have about anticipated futures.

Clearing the Past

To use Pattern Interrupt Methods to clear stress about the past, first we pick a specific memory. Think about the memory, then do something highly specific and weird, then think about the memory again and see how much it has changed. Repeat until clear, that is to say, when the unresourceful feeling is a zero out of ten.

Many “different” trauma clearing techniques all use this same basic structure. If you go to a hypnosis or therapy conference, you’ll probably see at least a dozen “new” techniques being presented each year that follow these steps. Think about a memory, feel into it, do some weird protocol, repeat until clear.

By the way, if you’re going to play with this yourself, start with something mild, not your life’s biggest trauma! For the big stuff, it’s also helpful to have outside support.

From Zero to Absolute Zero

Even better than just getting to 0 out of 10 is that when you get there, you really try (which implies failure) to get the feeling back about this memory. Try really hard to get that feeling back, two or three or four times until you can’t.

The first time you try to get it back, you probably will be able to. Clear it again. Then try again to get it back, again and again.

Eventually after a few times of getting the feeling back, you’ll find you cannot, no matter how hard you try, no matter what you think about. There is no more amazing feeling than “failing” to make yourself miserable, no matter how hard you try. 😆

Most people don’t even go this far. But we can go much farther.

I’ve found it useful to revisit this specific memory the very next day, feeling if there is any charge on Day 2. If so, you can repeat the process, most likely going much faster.

And then on Day 3, think about this specific memory again, and if there is any charge again “tap on it” (or do whatever pattern interrupt works for you).

And so on day after day, think about this memory until it has no emotional charge no matter how you think about it, on any day, in any context. It’s like you can remember the events, but they don’t bother you anymore, not even a little bit. In find that 3-7 days is often enough.

When you can’t get any negative feeling back, I call this Absolute Zero, because it’s not just reaching a zero out of ten once, it’s that nothing seems to get the feeling back no matter what.

At this point, this memory has been transformed and cleared of all emotional intensity — or at least as far as you know! And if the feelings about this specific memory were to ever come back, you’d know exactly how to resolve them again.

There is a unique kind of confidence that comes from this experience. It is a profound fearlessness. It even starts to transform fear of traumatic events happening in the future, because you now have complete faith in your ability to transform any negative experience.

In Boy Scouts, we learned that when putting out a fire, there are often embers still burning that you can’t see. If the wind picks up, this smoldering ash can reignite and even start a forest fire. So we were taught to pour water on it, stir it up, pour water on it again, stir it again, and so on, several times to completely extinguish the embers.

Stressful emotions also have embers. If we only reduce their intensity a little bit, often it will reignite when we have some stress in our lives. But if we can get it to zero and nothing we can do consciously can bring the feeling back — no matter how much we stir it up — the ember of that stress state has been completely extinguished. No storm, no matter how strong the winds, can spark it again.

We become The Eye of the Storm.

Clearing the Entire Backlog

If a person has 50 or 100 painful imprint memories, they could easily repeat this process with each one until their entire backlog of unpleasant memories were clear of negative emotion. This would be beyond what the vast majority of people get from decades of therapy.

Doing so wouldn’t take as long as you think. 30 minutes a day for a year might be enough. That’s less time than many people spend meditating or exercising, certainly less than most people spend watching TV or scrolling social media.

In fact, for most people, after clearing a few examples, the unconscious mind will automatically generalize and make the update for most, if not all, of the rest of them too. You’ll go to clear a new memory and…nothing. It just won’t have any charge, even though you never did anything with that specific memory.

Sometimes you can even clear a whole category of memories in a single go, rather than dealing with one at a time. And often if you clear out “the first or the worst” memory, the rest will also change automatically too.

Note that some people can more easily generalize a change than others. I have a brain that doesn’t generalize very well unless I repeat things over and over and over, with tons of examples. Other people can change with just one or two examples.

That might be because I think in small chunks and other people think in bigger chunks. Neither way is better or worse. I only mention this so if your brain is like mine, you can know that your brain is working perfectly, it just pays to be persistent!

Clearing the Future and the Present Too

This basic structure of Pattern Interrupt Methods doesn’t just apply to transforming past memories, despite most of these methods being advertised as for resolving past trauma.

As a coach, I mostly stay clear of helping people with the past anyway, focusing primarily on the present and future. Luckily these same methods can also apply to transforming anticipated futures or one’s present mood.

For example if someone feels anxious about an upcoming presentation, they can “tap on it” or use any other Pattern Interrupt Methods to transform the anxiety.

The Magic Circle

One can also use Pattern Interrupt Methods with their current state. I like to do this with something I call “The Magic Circle.”

First, I get a piece of paper and fold it one to three times, to make smaller rectangles. In the center of the paper I write “Current State” and draw a circle around it.

Then I close my eyes and check in. I notice my present thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. I briefly jot them down around the circle. For instance perhaps I feel mild sadness, some tension in my forehead, a heaviness in my shoulders, a thought like “I don’t want to do anything right now,” and so on.

I keep going for a couple minutes until it looks like a more-or-less complete “snapshot” of my current state. Then I do some sort of pattern interrupt for 2-20 minutes. And finally I do another Magic Circle to see how my state has changed. If it hasn’t cleared out completely, I might do another pattern interrupt and another Magic Circle.

The whole process takes as little as 5-20 minutes. But it makes a huge difference in my mood to clear out whatever default stress is in my system. I personally try to do at least one of these “clearing” rounds a day.

I find that getting to zero baseline stress daily is infinitely better than a 1 or 2 out of 10. It’s hard to describe how much better it is, but it feels like turning off stress entirely instead of feeling like something could tip you over the edge at any moment.

The Magic Circle for Procrastination aka “Zen Motivation”

You can also use The Magic Circle with specific issues, or even areas of life. Mike Bundrant teaches it as a method to overcome procrastination. Put the task you are procrastinating in the circle, then imagine doing the task. Write down your automatic thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.

Then do a pattern interrupt and another Magic Circle to see how things have changed. Do multiple rounds if needed to really clear things out. Then go do the thing!

The motivation you feel for doing the task won’t be forced. You’re not hyping yourself up. It’s just clear of resistance now. And perhaps there is also a natural intrinsic motivation that’s now easier to connect with.

Hence why Mike calls this “Zen Motivation,” because it’s a pretty chill kind of motivation. Also Mike has a background in actual Zen practice. His pattern interrupts are similar to practicing zazen, focusing on the senses in particular ways that get you out of your head, and therefore out of the pattern of thinking about stuff that’s stressing you out.

For example he might suggest you open to all external visual sensations at once, opening up to peripheral vision. Or alternatively, you might study the details of an object, really looking at what you see as if you’re an artist about to draw it from memory. You might feel your entire body at once, all over, or you might focus in on a small area of your body, your left big toe or the sensations of breathing at the nostrils.

Doing something like this for 2-3 minutes can interrupt the pattern of thinking that’s causing you stress, if you can get really absorbed into it.

Other Applications of Pattern Interrupt Methods

Here are some other possible ways to apply pattern interrupts.

Pattern Interrupts for Weird Body Stress Symptoms

I’ve only begun experimenting with this, but I’ve found Pattern Interrupt Methods useful to work with weird body issues that are probably due to stress, such as headaches, digestive issues, strange pains, chronic fatigue, and so on.

Lots of people have had the experience of going to doctor after doctor for their health problem, only be told that they are perfectly healthy and referred out to a psychotherapist. This is a deeply frustrating experience, especially since therapists also often don’t know what to do to help.

For myself, I had a cluster of symptoms for many years which showed up as sleepiness, pressure in my forehead, what felt like eyestrain but didn’t necessarily come from looking at a screen, low motivation, sadness, and brain fog. Pattern Interrupt Methods were part of what helped me to greatly reduce these symptoms in 2023.

While there are no guarantees Pattern Interrupt Methods will solve the problem, it’s free to try, and as far as I can tell there are no negative side-effects.

First, you can put the symptom in the center of the Magic Circle, imagine having the symptom (or better yet try deliberately to create it), and then record your automatic thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.

Do a pattern interrupt for 2-20 minutes, then another Magic Circle to see what has changed. Repeat in rounds until clear. Then do the same process with the same symptom tomorrow and the next day and so on until nothing comes up. 3-7 days in a row might even be enough. If it’s a real serious thing, it might be worth repeating daily for a month or two.

I’ve found sometimes this simple practice makes a huge difference in symptom severity, or can sometimes even knock it out completely!

You can also do pattern interrupt methods when the symptom comes on, but I have found it far superior to be proactive rather than reactive, to go after changing something when it’s not necessarily present rather than waiting for it to overtake you and only then trying to work with it.

Pattern Interrupts for Anxiety

For 25 years I had chronic anxiety. I’d wake up feeling anxious, be anxious all day long, and go to sleep anxious about what I didn’t get done that day. I worked on my anxiety with a variety of methods including Core Transformation (which was extremely helpful on many levels). But even after doing 500+ self-guided sessions of Core Transformation, I still had a baseline anxiety level of 1 or 2.

For several years, I thought that was as good as it got. I wasn’t sure how to work with this subtle anxiety, because other techniques weren’t getting at it. But then I discovered Pattern Interrupt Methods and worked to get to Absolute Zero anxiety.

For many years now, my baseline level of anxiety has been zero. That’s not to say I never feel anxiety or fear or worry, only that it is not a constant companion anymore. When I do get anxious, it’s often a 1 or 2 out of 10, and it passes quickly, even before I can do any pattern interrupts with it!

Most people don’t even think to try to transform an entire category of emotion, but I’m living proof that this is possible. I did a similar thing with a low level of baseline frustration that would sometimes boil over into real anger. I kept working on it until I got to Absolute Zero.

I still do experience a significant amount of sadness, especially when I get tired in the evenings. But I’ve been chipping away at that with Pattern Interrupt Methods too, making huge progress on it recently.

Pattern Interrupts for Beliefs

Have a belief you want to change? Write it down in The Magic Circle. Record your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations when think about believing this. Do a pattern interrupt, then another Magic Circle. Repeat until the “limiting belief” seems ridiculous.

Or you can do this for beliefs you want to adopt. Write down the new belief you don’t quite believe yet in the Magic Circle. Record your experience. Do a pattern interrupt. Do another Magic Circle to see what’s changed. Repeat until you’ve integrated the objections. Sometimes this will change the original belief you wrote down to something slightly different, improving the wording so that it’s now congruent.

Remember you can always repeat this day after day with a single belief, 3-7 days in a row is often enough. Really go for it!

Pattern Interrupts for Areas of Life

You can also put an entire area of life into the Magic Circle and work with it, like “Money,” “Work,” your specific job you have now, “Family” or a specific family member, and so on.

Sometimes this works great for clearing out any stress you have in that whole area! And sometimes it’s too big of a chunk, which you might realize after 3 or 4 rounds of pattern interrupts and you’re still pretty stressed about it. If that’s the case, just pick a smaller chunk to work with.

For example instead of “Work” it could be “Project X” or “Development Team Meeting.” You can always transform the smaller and work your way up to the bigger.

Pattern Interrupts for Habits

Want to change a bad habit? Put it in the Magic Circle. Or you could put a good habit in the circle that you want to adopt instead. Either way, do rounds until clear. Then notice if it’s easier to do what you actually want to do.

Hopefully you get the point by now. Pattern Interrupt Methods can work to transform stress about the past, present, or future. You can use them on specific memories, tasks you are procrastinating, weird bodily stress issues, or even entire categories of emotion. You can use pattern interrupts to change beliefs or areas of life or habits.

In essence, you can throw pattern interrupts at almost anything, and they often make a significant difference! At the very least, it’s something worth trying, since you can learn how to do them on your own, and thus do thousands of variations without spending a dime.

I know, terrible business strategy to empower my clients to change themselves without me. But hey, what can I say, I like to empower people.

Pattern Interrupt Methods aren’t the only way to work either. So if you’ve tried them for a specific issue and they aren’t doing the trick, try something different!

Cultivating the Positive

So far this has all been about clearing out the negative. Equally, if not more important, is cultivating the positive.

Once you have cleared out stress, you can also deliberately cultivate positive resource states, and bring them into the specific context you are working in. This is far easier to do when there are no obstacles to doing so.

You can also cultivate other positive resources “just because,” like doing loving-kindness meditation. I’ve found that clearing out anger before doing loving-kindness practice is especially powerful.

I’m not going to say more about this here, only that cultivating positive resource states is a wonderful and important thing to do too. Life isn’t just about reducing suffering, it’s also about increasing joy and happiness and love, in a way that benefits everybody.

Thanks for reading. If you found this useful, please share it on social media or directly with friends and family.

May all beings be happy and free from suffering.

Duff McDuffee

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  • Published February 2nd, 2024
  • Last Updated on May 6, 2024