Are you feeling stuck? Do you feel like you pendulum between emotions likes sadness, self-pitty and depression to emotions like frustration, resentment and anger? If you answered yes to these questions, then you may be stuck in a fairly common pattern, called the Crazy 8 Pattern (this pattern was identified and coined by Anthony Robbins).
Here is what typically causes it and how it works...
During the course of our lives we move through various life stages. Each of these life stages usually presents us with 2 or 3 significant challenges. For example, moving out of home would be a transition from one life stage to another, getting married would be another, having kids yet another etc. Moving out of home would require you to learn to support yourself and within this would be several significant challenges to face up to and overcome. These challenges we call, "Quality Problems", because if we overcome them, they move us forward our life. However, if we are faced with a significant problem or challenge that we do not want to face, or believe we cannot overcome, (usually because we don't believe we have the resources or confidence to overcome it), then we go into the Crazy 8 pattern.
On one side the 8 we have emotions like sadness, self-pitty, guilt and depression; on the other side of the 8 we have emotions like frustration, resentment, anger and even rage. Each side of the 8 has a very distinct theme of emotions, as you can see.So for example, John, who is stuck in the Crazy 8 might first get angry. Getting angry gives him a sense of significance, because suddenly people take notice of him and listen to him, it also gives him a sense of certainty, because in that moment his anger displaces his doubt and uncertainty. Of course this is a temperary fix though, because the response he gets from others will begin to wear off and they will soon get annoyed with him or want nothing to do with him. In addition to this, the physiology of anger is tense. The blood pressure rises, muscle tension increases, and breathing becomes fast and shallow. There is a lot of tension in the body, and the you cannot hold that tension in the body for too long before the body requires you to release it. So in response to this, John moves from anger into self-pitty, the opposite emotion. Where anger is a strong emotion, self-pitty is a weak emotion. And, self-pitty stimulates a new response from others, in that they feel sorry for John and sympathise with him, and if they don't, then at least he can connect with himself. This shift from anger to self-pitty now fulfills his need for variety, because our human nervous system requires that we change our emotional state from time to time, but it also allows him to feel a sense of connection, either with others through sympathy or with himself. But again, this is a temnporary fix, because if he stays in this state too long, not only do people start hardening to him, or telling him to pull himself together, but he starts to feel weak and uncertain. And guess what the easiest and quickest way to feel strong and certain is? You guessed it, ANGER. And so he swings back to the other side of the Crazy 8 and the whole cycle starts again.Which you go to first, anger or depression, is determined by which you value more, connection and love or significance. Someone who values connection and love more than the feeling of significance will first go to sadness or depression, whereas someone who values the feeling of significance over connection and love will first go to anger.
So how do people try to get out of this pattern?
They use a distraction. We call these distrations, "Safe Problems". A "Safe Problem" can be any thing that distracts your attention away from having to deal with the "Quality Problem". Some people use food as a distraction, some use alcohol, someone who is having marital problems might have an affair to distract them away from either fixing their marriage or leaving it. A single mother may convince herself that her sole responsibility is to her child and hence not have to deal with the challenge of meeting someone new. As you can see, "Safe Problems" come in all shapes and sizes, but the common denominator is that they distract our attention away from dealing with the real problem, the "Quality Problem".Using a "Safe Problem" to get out of the Crazy 8 is temporary and unsustainable, because as soon as the distraction is over we go straight back into the Crazy 8 again.
So how should you get out of the Crazy 8?
The solution is to addrerss the real issue, and remember that I said we go into a Crazy 8 pattern because we have either defined the problem in unsolveable terms or we have bought into the illussion that we do not have the confidence or the resources to solve it. This requires us to re-evaluate and change the meaning we have given the situation.
(I will deal with how we create and change meaning in another article.)