04/13/2016 04:52 EDT | Updated 04/14/2017 05:12 EDT

Bad Relationship Habits Span Generations (But You Can Fix Them)

Life will often gift us with an opportunity for deeper self-knowledge through experiences that will produce pain, suffering and despair. These can be great motivators for change if we are courageous enough to actually listen to what life is saying so that we can learn from the lessons at hand.

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Conflict bad relationships concept. Two people couple pointing fingers at each other

You probably decided to take better care of yourself but now you want your relationships to change, too. If yes, I tip my hat to you! What gets me up in the morning is knowing that we can have better relationships by stopping the cycle of multi-generational dysfunction through sincere analysis of our own patterns of behaviour, using mental discipline and the science of neural pathways.

To that end, I encourage you to take personal responsibility for your family line and to empower yourself to say "the buck stops here, with me! I take responsibility for my actions. I can and will stop multi-generational dysfunction dead in its tracks through awareness and through the choices I make."

Our family-culture is handed down across generations and influences our patterns, habits and ways of being. If you do nothing about any dysfunction carried with you from your family-culture, you have no choice but to play out that matrix in your life and foist it onto the next generation and on to your relationship-culture.

What is Relationship-Culture?

Your relationship-culture is your external expression of your family-culture in the form of patterns of behaviour. These patterns may or may not be dysfunctional.

Ask yourself: how do you react to your dates, relationships, partners or spouses? Are you in a constant state of insecurity, anger, resentment, jealousy, shame and guilt?

Whatever that repetition may be, please know that this is reflected in your neural pathways in your brain. You inherited most of what you do from your family-culture, and if it is in fact working for you, then by all means keep it.

But what if you are not happy with the repetitions you feel compelled to keep doing? How do you start to behave in new ways so that you no longer feel enslaved by what you have learned?

Awareness is the Key!

But awareness alone can do nothing. More needs to happen for change to occur, lest you perpetuate the cycle of dysfunction for generations to come. A little self-knowledge won't change much, you need to dig in and really get to know yourself.

Life will often gift us with an opportunity for deeper self-knowledge through experiences that will produce pain, suffering and despair. These can be great motivators for change if we are courageous enough to actually listen to what life is saying so that we can learn from the lessons at hand. These states of being can help us want to finally stop doing what is not working so that we wake up from our auto-pilot stupor!

However, I believe that change is possible even if life isn't booting you in the rear with hard emotions and events. But you need to know yourself well and, very crucially, you need to apply a specific process that involves the use of your brain to create that change. With this knowledge, it is within your power to take charge and create transformation in your life and in your relationships.

Our Brains are Elegantly Adaptable

It is important to know that your brain is an elegant machine that will support you in change if you know how to use it. The brain has thin neural pathways and thick ones; they could be compared to footpaths and highways.

Your long-held beliefs and behaviour patterns, those that are inherited from your family-culture dynamics, are associated with the thick, highway-like neural pathways, whereas newer beliefs and behaviour patterns are reflected in the narrow footpaths in your brain.

The former are harder to change because, having been there so long they are making you act without self-awareness according to your long-held beliefs and behaviour patterns. The newer, thinner neural pathways are much more vulnerable and need to be tended to more carefully if you want them to grow.

Awareness Plus Repetition

In order to change you need to create new neural pathways and reinforce them. You can thicken and reinforce these new neural pathways associated with new patterns and new behaviours through the act of awareness plus repetition.

Choose a behaviour you want to reinforce and do it over and over. The more we do the same thing, the more the neural pathway associated with that repetition strengthens. The longer that belief remains in place or action continues, the more that neural pathway becomes thicker and harder to change.

If you decide to behave differently in your dating experiences or in a relationship, it will feel uncomfortable and strange at first, but your brain will collaborate and support the new behaviour by creating new neural pathways.

If you consciously repeat the new behaviour often, these new neural pathways will be reinforced, thus allowing your biology to help you to stay the course with the new choices. The key is to identify the new healthy pattern you would like to implement and then repeat, repeat, repeat!

Tools to Help Change Happen

Repetitive meditation and visualization are fundamental techniques for creating new neural pathways and achieving change in your beliefs.

In a meditative state, you can visualize yourself living the life you want to live or being in the kind of relationship you wish to be in. When you do this, it is important to make your images as clear, colourful and specific as you can. Also I encourage folks to use positive affirmations, which are a way to use language awareness and word repetition to transform thoughts, attitudes and neural pathways.

Journaling is a great tool to facilitate an inner awareness of what may need to be changed. Breath work can be an excellent tool to slow down your nervous system so you can stop its auto-pilot responses (associated with the thick neural pathways) to people and events in your life.

Slowing down goes a long way toward facilitating better communication, clearer intentions and healthier reactions within your relationships. These tools, when used often, will create a new relationship-culture associated with the new you!

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