Stop the train!

A friend of mine told me a funny story about something they had seen on a train near London some years ago. This was back in the days when passengers could open the doors themselves.

The train stopped and a man got up, opened the door and stepped out. Unfortunately there was no platform there and the man fell down onto the ground next to the track. The other passengers went to the door and helped him back up onto the train. Flustered and very embarrassed, he moved over to the other side of the train, opened the door and got out, but there was no platform there either. Down onto the ground he fell, again.

Does this kind of thing sound familiar? You don’t need to have fallen off both sides of a train – but you may find that you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, especially during periods when things are going quite well (and you’re back on the train), which cause you to get into difficulties.

You may have stumbled into a difficult situation due to inadequate planning or poor decision making, retrieved the situation and got back on course, then you did something else that wasn’t very clever and got into another difficult situation. These difficult situations could be debt, unsuitable relationships, staying in a job you don’t like, or anything you don’t want really. The main point is that something you don’t want to happen keeps happening, with periods of apparent stability in between them. What is it that makes us repeatedly get into these situations?

It could have something to do with the programs we are running in our heads. If you look at the guy in the story, he was running an automatic pattern; train stops – open door – get out. Wrong door – must be the other one – open door – get out. Wrong on both counts. We all do similar things. In certain situations there are automatic programs that we run – “I am bored – start drinking”, “I am unhappy – start spending money”.

We need to become aware of these patterns, and avoid them running automatically in certain situations so that we can do something more helpful. We need to learn to observe our thoughts and feelings so that we can start to have more control over them. Remember the old saying: “If you do what you have always done you will get what you always got”.

If you are happy about what you always got, then great. If not, it’s time to start doing something about it and becoming aware of these patterns is the first step.

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