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The Law of Repetition
Once a Week
People are usually surprised to learn that I love dog training. It happened rather by accident, after adopting a one year old mini labradoodle that was (and unfortunately still is) hopelessly anxious. He and I worked really hard for a few months and made much progress. One of the commands he learned was “kennel up” - when leaving we say “kennel up,” and off he goes into his kennel, without fuss or complaint. Over time he learned what activities signal our departure: putting on shoes and jackets, everyone bustling around, one final potty time. Sometimes he sees those activities when we aren’t leaving, and after looking around for him and calling “Toto!” we find him curled up in his kennel, requiring much cajoling to convince him we aren’t leaving. This was an unexpected effect, equally humorous and sad, from what was supposed to be positive obedience.
Repetitions form patterns, but as habits we don’t usually think about them. Much of counseling involves welcoming an outside perspective to help to detect those undetectable patterns, whether personal, relational, familial or cultural. Once detected, they can then be inspected. Although it can be overvalued, “Why do I do the things I do?” is a powerful question. Another helpful question is, “What is the impact of this repetitive habit?” To be aware of a pattern is one thing; it is another thing, and more challenging and generative, to perceive at depth what patterns do to ourselves and others.
When we are willing to ask these difficult questions, knowledge of cause, effect and impact (which of course can be complex and multidirectional) is powerful and able to generate compound interest: more awareness, more growth; more growth, more awareness, until finally we see “face to face” and “know fully, even as [we] have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Quote from Daniel Goleman
“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”
Who helps you see the things in yourself that you can’t see?
Praying for and laboring with you,