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Creating Pattern Timelines

You may find it useful to see a timeline of your pattern (or more likely part of your pattern), so, for instance, a relationship or how you’ve battled with making and sticking to a decision. In a relationship where there’s a ‘cycle’ of you both doing things, possibly including breaking up and getting back together, creating a timeline is illuminating. Do one for each year you’ve been together and then compare. If you want to look at a shorter period, instead of drawing out monthly markers, use days or weeks instead.

Visualising your pattern can help you to spot if there’s a cyclical nature (The Disappointment Cycle). For example: give it the big talk, appear to go through some changes, get impatient, get into conflict at work/seek attention in dating, go through a whirlwind, get hurt, feel wounded, and lather rinse repeat.

Or maybe:

Day 0. Spot someone online, feel attracted, send them an email.

Day 0-5 Get a response, start bantering, texting, emailing.

Day 7 -10 Talk about meeting up, talk about the future, you feel like ‘This is it.’

Day 11-20 Go on the first date, possibly sleep together.

Day 21-29 Don’t hear from them again, email them and text a few times, get fobbed off with busy, feel hopes sliding.

Day 30 Back on the dating site again.

What to include in the timeline: the pattern events. Examples: dating someone, getting back together, still struggling to get over an ex, a disappointment, a rejection, weight gain, when something major (good or bad) happened in the relationship, something happening to a friend or family member that you took some meaning from, loss of a job, health changes, anything really positive that you’ve done or achieved during the time, a bereavement, a conflict, some sort of trauma.

Include any preceding recent events (in the context of the timeline) that even if you didn’t or still don’t realise it, may potentially have impacted. Think about how you were feeling before and after each event as there may be other factors influencing the chain of events that you didn’t even realise were going on.

It’s basically: think about something that happened, see if there was anything before it ‘stressing’ you or triggering your pattern.

You may also spot some surprising patterns like this one:

In the six months before the diagnosis of my immune system disease (sarcoidosis), my flare-ups occurred either the day of or the day after me engaging with the Guy With The Girlfriend. And it normally included some sort of drama. Every.Time. In fact, the very first flare-up was when I woke up the morning after we had slept together for the first time and I couldn’t see properly and had a stabbing pain.

I also noticed that I would throw myself into a relationship as a way of escaping a major run-in with my mother.

Readers and students have told me that when they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve gone back to an assclown ex that they weren’t over. Others have shared that when they’ve got a new job or promotion, it’s like it was a ‘boost’ to their sense of self, so they started dating again. They may have been thinking that the job made them ‘worthier’ or that they would be more able to deal with a difficult ex. On the flip side, I’ve also heard from people who experience something really good like a promotion or even a half-decent relationship, and due to feelings of low self-worth and a regular habit of not internalising accomplishments, achievements, or just good feelings, they sabotage things to remain in their uncomfortable comfort zone.

Get conscious about what is in your pattern so that if, for instance, you have a big argument with your sister, you know to take extra care of you during this time, to keep your feet in reality and not to use your ex as an emotional airbag to self-soothe on and give you validation.

All you need for this activity is a piece of paper. You can, of course, use something like Excel but if, like me, you don’t like wrestling with this program, use trusty pen and paper.

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