Do you notice patterns in your life? Is there a certain thing that just keeps happening? It could be good, like making friends easily, completing tasks quickly, or something as small as having “good parking karma.” But, I bet that’s not what you thought of first. You probably thought of some negative pattern you see in your life, whether it’s in relationships, health, career and achievement, personal expression, or some other aspect of your daily life.

If you’ve been tracking this pattern for a while, you may already have tried to change it in some way. For some people, that does work, at least for a while. But, it usually takes a lot of work to do that, and quite often, the pattern returns and is even more intense than before. Or maybe, no matter what you’ve tried to do to change the pattern, it just keeps happening. How frustrating!

So, why is it that these patterns are so tenacious, whether they are good or bad? It’s because they’re rooted in your sense of self, which is the storage bank for how you feel about being yourself. Your sense of self was put into place from conception until the age of 2 1/2. During this time, you absorbed how people around you felt about being human, and you turned this feeling into how you feel about being yourself.

You might be saying, “Wait a minute, I’m nothing like either of my parents.” Along with absorbing how they felt about being human, you also developed a survival mechanism—also based in how you feel about being human—to allow you to fit well within your family. Sometimes, the way we survived and fit well with them was to be very different from how they were. For instance, a chaotic parent will often have one or more very calm children–the best way to survive was to add as little to the chaos as possible.

No matter what you absorbed and what survival mechanism you developed before age 2 1/2, this sense of self becomes the automatic, generating force in your life. This means that without your conscious input, your brain keeps generating moments in which you get to feel the same way as you did before the age of 2 1/2. So, look at the negative pattern you’ve noticed in your life. Now, think about the feeling that this pattern triggers. Is it, “I don’t matter,” or, “I’m not good enough”? How about, “It’s not safe to get too close to people,” or, “Nothing ever works for me.”

Whatever it is, think back to your early childhood. Can you see where this pattern might have started, either from your own memories or from stories people have told you? Even if you can’t, know that the origins of that negative pattern are back there somewhere. It’s important to know that there is no blame associated with the beginning of these patterns. Even if someone behaved badly, they were doing the best they knew how to with the patterns they absorbed early in their life. (Of course, this doesn’t absolve someone from abusive behavior, but it might help you understand it better.)

In the work I do with my clients, we address this root-level feeling behind negative patterns. As they permanently peel away layers of the negative feeling, the natural well-being at their core can take over as the automatic, generating force behind their moments and situations. In the situations where the negative pattern happened before, well-being generates the feeling that, “It’s good being me,” and good patterns start to happen, much to the surprise of my clients. It’s pretty typical for them to say, “I don’t even know who I am, anymore. I found myself saying and doing things I never have before.”

Just a couple of days ago, a client was telling me about a break-up she had just gone through this week. In previous break-ups, she has always tried to figure out how she could have been more what the man wanted. She has beaten herself up for not being even close to perfect enough. This time, as she was telling this man that she was finished with their relationship, she was thinking to herself, “Wow, he’s really blowing it. I am a great person, I’m beautiful, and if he doesn’t get that, then I deserve someone who does.” As is always true with this work, these moments are never something that is planned out. Spontaneously, they feel radically better about being themselves and different behavior is generated, as a result.

I hope that your own negative patterns make a little more sense now, and that you realize that there’s a deep, fundamental way to change them.