How to Identify & Disrupt Unhealthy Cycles | Ep. #11

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How to stop bad patterns

Intro: Men. We are not simple chest-thumping, rock-smashing, fire-starting barbarians. We have depth. We intensely feel. We are scared, yet brave. We love to have fun. We’re imperfect, and make mistakes. We’re compassionate, and loving. We are multifaceted. Let’s explore the reality of masculinity together.

00:28 All right, welcome to multifaceted masculinity. Before we dive into today’s topic, I just wanted to one lay a little foundation for you and also if you have questions which you may have questions regarding this or maybe even a different episode or you might even have an idea of a topic that you want to kind of dive into and for me to break down. If that’s the case, then just go to multifacetedmasculinity.com/question. There’s a quick little simple form there that you can fill out. You can submit your question. I read every single one of them. And we’ll start to dive into the things that you guys really want to learn about and begin to understand. The second thing is that for today’s episode, because it’s structured a little bit different, it’s best if you listen to it when you have an opportunity to pause and do some of the things that we’re going to be doing. So this is not a podcast for you to try to multitask with or be cleaning up the yard and listen to. You totally can if you want, but you’re going to get the most out of it if you set aside some time to listen to this one because we’re actually going to be doing some exercises within it. Alright, let’s go ahead and dive into today’s talk.

01:51 All right.Today we are going to be doing something a little bit different than we have with previous episodes. Today’s episode is going to be a training. We’re going to break down how you can tangibly identify unhealthy cycles in your life, and we’re going to get into the details of all of this, but how do I identify them? And then really how to change those in a way that is tangible and sustainable. So I’m really excited to get into this topic. I’m pretty passionate about it. Both because of the clients that I’ve worked with that I’ve seen this really effectively help them, as well as in my own life. Just areas to improve and to grow in. So let’s start with “what are unhealthy cycles?” And that is really broad, and it is for a reason. Because it’s really anything that you do on a regular basis that you, that you find yourself repeating over and over again that disconnects you from your true identity.

02:55 Now you may be asking “Josh, uh, I don’t really know what my true is, so that’s not very helpful.” I think a lot of us go through our lives identifying and connecting to what that is. So I’m not saying there’s an end all be all answer there, but it’s really anything that deep down inside you know you’re really unsatisfied with. Now, one thing that’s really important to note with unhealthy cycles. With the tool that we’re going to be diving into, it is not a tool for you to shame yourself. The whole goal is for you to identify areas of your life that you want to improve on, or grow in. Really essentially learn how to love yourself better than you have been. And obviously if you’re beating yourself up or shaming yourself because you go through this exercise and you’re like, “Man, Josh, I didn’t even realize I’ve been doing this my entire life. What the heck?”

03:49 It’s really counterintuitive to try to shame yourself into a healthier reality. Just want to put that out there as a foundation for us to work from. Okay? Entire idea around unhealthy cycles. It’s not for you to constantly do a self assessment on where you’re not doing good. It’s really for something if you bump into repeatedly that you begin to identify and you want to change that. There are three key components when it comes to disrupting an unhealthy cycle and creating a healthy one. And we’re going to break down each one of those steps. But just to give you the rapid fire is it’s really first to identify the problem and then from there you have to reverse engineer what the cycle is, specifically. You may know what the problem is or you may think you know what the problem is, but when you begin to reverse engineer it, you’re going to realize there are several layers of underlying layers that you can really disrupt before you get to the thing that you don’t really necessarily like or you want to see change in.

04:50 And then third, it’s to create an action plan. To tangibly do something that shifts that. There is no way you are going to identify unhealthy cycles and change them into healthy ones without a plan. A classic saying is you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. So we need to put together an action plan and there’s just a few really simple key components that you can begin to incorporate as far as a plan, this isn’t necessarily like an giant blueprint on your entire inner world or inner workings. This is really if you identify one or two key areas. So first, let’s start with what the heck is an unhealthy cycle? We’ve already touched on kind of the big picture as far as it’s anything that you find yourself repeating over and over again that you don’t, but how do you begin to identify what those are?

05:43 Well, the easiest way to do it is just to begin to look for areas in your life that you feel stuck or trapped or maybe you feel a lot of shame around a certain area of your life or maybe just frustrated. You keep doing something over and over again and you don’t know why. But if you start there, just kind of pause, even hit pause on this podcast and say, “where is it in my life that I feel really frustrated cause I’m repeating or I, I feel trapped or maybe even stuck or I feel shame around it?” Now, shame is such a broad topic in and of itself, but if you have something that you’re doing repeatedly in your life that you feel you need to hide from the people that know you best, that’s essentially a really easy marker for where shame is dictating an unhealthy cycle.

06:38 This is the starting point because it’s often easiest for us to identify one of these areas. Now they could be big unhealthy cycles or they could be really simple or small ones. So for example, let’s say some big unhealthy cycles that maybe you find yourself doing is maybe you move every three years to a different state, not necessarily to a different house, but completely across into something totally new. Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that essentially, but if you find yourself consistently doing that and it’s causing a frustration or a sense of plateauing or- one key indicator can be if you, if you’re starting over essentially every three years cause you’re moving, or five years, or two years, or seven years, whatever it may be. Or another one is you know, maybe you’ve plateaued in your career or just in life in the sense of feeling health or pursuing health internally you, you kind of feel like you’ve bumped into a glass ceiling and you’re not exactly sure why, and you don’t know what to do next.

07:44 Or maybe, here’s a big one, is you keep attracting the same unhealthy people in your life. Like, you hate it, but it just keeps happening over and over again. Those are some unhealthy cycles that are bigger. Now, smaller ones- I’m not saying that these are less destructive or less unhealthy. I’m just giving examples of kind of big life examples, and then smaller ones. When I say small, I’m referring to something that is less disruptive in your life as far as the big picture, but it can be just as destructive. So some examples there would be, I have an addiction looking at porn or I struggled with emotional eating, or normally I’m pretty good, but all of a sudden I, I seem to rage out and lose control. Or maybe I just find myself emotionally hiding.

08:35 You might say, “well, what is that?” Well, emotional hiding is when you find yourself being quiet in moments that you have a thought to share, or maybe you have a conversation with somebody. Or a confrontation with somebody. And then you walk away from that conversation, you think to yourself, “Oh, I should have said that or this, or I can’t believe I responded this way or that way.” You’re emotionally, you’re choosing to hide. A lot of times it’s connected to either our childhood or life experiences that have taught you to be silent, things like that. But that’s essentially what I’m saying when I refer to emotional hiding. Or maybe you’re repeating the same kind of arguments with your spouse over and over and over again. Or maybe you have really unhealthy spending habits and when you get two thousand five thousand twenty thousand dollars in the bank, all of a sudden it seems to either stop there or cap there. Or it dwindles down and then you build back up and dwindles down. But though that’s just kind of a list of some examples. Like I said, in the bigger sense, it’s really any area that you feel trapped or stuck or have shame or frustration. So go ahead, if you haven’t already, pause this podcast and try to identify what one of those are.

09:48 Okay. Now that you’ve hopefully done that. Now, the second step is to reverse engineer what that cycle is. And for a lot of us, this is where this is the biggest area that we get hung up on. Because you may know the action, let’s say emotional eating. We’ll use it as an example from now on. You may know that action that you didn’t want to stop, but you don’t understand the cycle that it’s connected to. So now we have to reverse engineer what leads you to the point where you are emotional eating, or where you’re looking at porn, or where you are moving so many years, or whatever it may be. You don’t wake up one morning at a good place internally and decide, “you know what? I’m going to do X.” So you have to start with the action that you want to change or the emotional response that you want to change. If we’re using emotional eating as an example of managing anxiety, let’s use that as kind of the first step.

10:48 With the smaller, unhealthy cycles, you can normally identify something that happened throughout that day, or throughout that week even, that triggered it. Something happens that causes your internal response to be something, and that internal response provokes an emotion, and that emotion normally causes the action. We’re going to go ahead and use the unhealthy eating example. So those four steps, something happens, my response is something, it causes a certain emotion, and then that emotion causes a certain action. So it could be when I’m around leaders, my response is often that I’m quiet, or I don’t speak up, or I kinda shut down. And that makes me feel really frustrated, or shamed, or scared, whatever it may be for you. And then when I feel that frustration or I feel that shame that actually causes me to feel anxiety. And from that I go emotionally eat until I don’t feel anxiety anymore.

11:46 There’s normally something that happens. I forgot to take out the trash, and my spouse yells me or we get an argument over taking out the trash. So then my response is I either rage out and get really angry, or I shut down and I feel completely silent internally. And that causes, you know, either anger, or shame. So then I go run and look at porn until I don’t feel those emotions anymore. You can go on and on and on with any one of the cycles, but this is how you reverse engineer it. For the unhealthy cycles that are bigger, it could be I break up with my girlfriend, and I completely spiral. And from that I find myself moving to a new house in the same city, or to a different city, or whatever it may be. And then lo and behold, around the three year mark, after a year of kind of settling in, the second year I start to build community. The third year I find someone special. And then six months later our relationship falls apart.

12:48 So in that case, what happened? Well, the relationship came to an end. What’s your response? Runaway from the problem. It causes a lot of pain and shame, and then that pain and that shame causes the action of moving, using that example. Hopefully you get the idea. Those are just a couple examples that I thought I’d throw out. Reverse engineering? That’s great. It’s really hard to take action on something to change in your life without first finding clarity. So that’s the first step is identifying what that cycle is. Then once you reverse engineer it, then you need to create an action plan. Something that is tangible. You know, a lot of us guys love to just stay in our heads or put down our head and work harder, or work out more, or whatever it may be. But there’s no clear action plans specific to an unhealthy cycle.

13:39 So it has to be something that is simple enough, I’m not saying that we’re dumb, but we are singularly focused a lot of times. So it needs to be something that’s simple that you can go to when you start to identify what this cycle is that you find yourself repeating. One of the best things I’ve found that can really help is to identify what maybe a cornerstone habit is that you can change. And if you don’t know what cornerstone habits are there, they’re basically something large that you do on a regular basis that triggers kind of an automatic response, either an action or an emotion. Using the emotional eating as an example, if I felt stressed or anxious during the day, then when I put my kids to bed, I go back downstairs and go into the kitchen, and grab the tub of ice cream or the bowl of cereal or whatever it is for you, and then from that, then I go sit down on the couch and I watch TV while I’m eating and kind of binge out for a couple hours and then before I know it, it’s almost midnight and I go to bed and then I wake up feeling like crap the next day, and then I rinse and repeat.

14:47 Well a cornerstone habit would be “okay, the one thing that I’m going to do different is after I put my kids to bed, I am not going to go back downstairs. Doesn’t matter what I do after that, I’m not trying to not eat. I’m literally just trying to not go downstairs.” So you have to identify what that one thing is that you’re going to commit to no matter what. And you may be surprised how hard it is the first few nights, or days, or whatever it is to apply or to commit to that one thing that you identify. Or using the emotional eating example, you know it was when I’m around leadership, then I shut down. So a cornerstone habit would be when we have our business meeting, I’m going to sit next to my boss. I always sit on the opposite side of the farthest side.

15:37 Or if you’re at a conference, I’m going to sit in the front row or the closest row of the front that I’m allowed to instead of hiding out in the back. You’re looking for one thing that you can commit to. To really disrupt the internal automation that kicks in in reaction or response to whatever that situation is that you find yourself in. And then the other side of it is it’s really helpful when you have a friend that knows what you’re doing. A lot of us are either too afraid or too ashamed or too embarrassed to let other men see our weakness, or what we perceive as our weakness. So if it’s an unhealthy cycle, one of the ways that you can really sabotage changing that unhealthy cycle is living with the mindset that you’re just going to go ahead and change it on your own and then once you have it figured out, then you’re going to tell your friend about it.

16:27 Now it’s once you’ve identified these things, you tell your friend, or your spouse, or your significant other, whatever it may be, what it is that you’re committing to. And that cycle that you identified that you want to disrupt. And you’re not doing it for the sake of accountability, sure, there may be an element of that. But really what you’re doing is we were all hard wired for relationship. And when you try to do something on your own, when you either have those weak moments, it’s really easy to fall back into whatever that cycle may be. Or the other side of it is that when you choose to do something that is disruptive to it and you begin to move into a healthy direction, there’s a compound effect of having someone in your corner cheering you on. That you can literally call, get out of your business meeting, pick up the phone, and you call your friend and on the lunch break and you say, “You know what? I can’t believe that I sat next to him and I was- my palms were sweaty, and I was nervous, but you know what? I did it anyways.”

17:25 And then they can celebrate with you. That’s literally fuel in your engine to disrupt the unhealthy and move towards the healthy. As well as, internally, celebrating yourself. When you’re willing to celebrate yourself for the good that you’re doing, and invite others in to champion you, you’re going to be able to let go of that unhealthy pole that you may have and grab ahold of something that’s healthier, so much faster. Now, one thing to bring up is sometimes a friend, I know that I just said you want to be able to get a friend involved that can champion you. But sometimes your friends or some of your friends may be the unhealthy people that keeps showing up in your life.

18:10 Even if you try to go through this and you listen to this podcast and you try to figure it out for yourself and you just can’t seem to do it and you talk to your friend and they don’t seem to be very helpful. Sometimes you need to meet with a coach or a counselor, somebody that has an outside perspective. Because when you meet with somebody and you share with them, they are not connected to the emotional roller coaster that you may be going through. They’re able to objectively look from the outside in, and a lot of times can identify what these cycles are and how to disrupt them much easier than if you’re trying to do it on your own. So whether that is, you know, you have a counselor or I take on clients and you want to reach out to me, just go to joshcearbaugh.com and fill out the contact form and we can go from there.

18:58 Or you can even find somebody else. But the point is, you may need to get outside help to find a new healthy norm. And that’s not because you’re weak. It’s not because you failed. It’s not because you don’t have enough strong will to push through. Sometimes you just need somebody to link arms with you. To sit in the trenches with you. To not be afraid of your emotional process and help cheer you on to move you into that true identity, that man that’s locked up inside of you that’s longing to be seen and celebrated by others. You are more than capable of staying locked into a healthy cycle. And not be a victim to some subconscious, unhealthy driver that’s slowly eating away at your ability to enjoy life.

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