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Learning To Break Cycles Can Help You Live A Fulfilling Life

Whether you have generational family patterns, a cycle of self-sabotaging, or a learned behavior that is no longer serving you; it is possible to break cycles and live a life that is fulfilling to you.

Generational family patterns like addiction, trauma, anxiety and unhealthy relationship patterns are often passed on through the act of denial. The cycle of self-sabotage starts when you get in your own way, and a learned behavior, like this, can be difficult to unlearn. However, it is still possible to break cycles in your life.

You can help lessen anxiety and depression while increasing self-approval when you break cycles. You don’t have to learn how to end a habit by yourself. There are resources and professional help available to you. If you are unlearning a pattern, tired of getting in your own way, or impacted by generational trauma, you can break cycles. It’s not always easy, but you are worth it.

Generational Cycle or Family Pattern

When it comes to generational family patterns like addiction, abuse or violence, mental illness, and poverty; secrets as well as denial can be a stronghold that prevent breaking cycles.

It is difficult to heal when secrets feel shameful and denial is rampant, which is often true in dysfunctional family structures. Whether you have a grandparent, parent, sibling, or child who is active in addiction or a family pattern; there is a way to stop a generational cycle.

You can be the person who no longer carries the secrets and denial.

You may feel less anxiety as well as depression when you accept your circumstance and become willing to change it for yourself. Addiction and abuse (emotional or physical) can be a vicious cycle you do not have to heal alone. Though it takes courage, there are benefits and an entire community that are available to you.

Often, generational family patterns are deep rooted and painful to look at closely. However, doing this type of work can mean that you transform yourself, your relationships, and even the dynamic of your family. You may start to feel an emotion, identify a symptom like drinking alcohol to cope, and alleviate some fear when you begin healing from a generational cycle.

You can stop the cycle for a young person in your family when you recognize the mental health struggles that are getting passed along through generations. Mental illness can be part of family structures as well, and learning more with the help of a professional can be beneficial.

You can make a different decision than your parents at any time. It takes one person to stop participating in a generational cycle to make a difference in an entire family structure. All you need is a desire and willingness to change to start the process.

Breaking the cycle of generational family patterns is difficult, and you may see positive outcomes with these strategies:

Tap Into A Recovery Community.

One of the most powerful resources for generational family patterns are 12-step recovery programs. Whether you are currently in active addiction or supporting loved ones who are presenting addictive behaviors; there is help and a community available to you.

Attending meetings with other people who are struggling similarly to you can help you feel less alone. You may find that your situation is not unique even after years of telling yourself that narrative.

Recovery programs are available to you at any time, and many have adapted with a hybrid structure of Zoom and in-person meetings while staying conscientious of communities. Some helpful recovery meetings for those supporting or impacted by others with addiction include Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), Al-anon, and Alateen.


By processing your go-to behaviors on paper, you have the benefit of looking back and reading what you wrote. This simple act can help you to identify when you struggle the most, and how you compensate for that in your daily life.

You may need to admit to yourself that there is a problem with your current circumstance so that you can change it.

When you journal, you can navigate internal conflict, and the impact it has in your life. You will continue along the same path for as long as you allow yourself to do so. It’s okay, and journaling can help you to identify where you slip, not necessarily where you fall.

Practice Meditation and Mindfulness.

A meditation practice can be developed by taking a 1-minute break in your day to center yourself. You can ground yourself by putting your feet on the floor and taking a deep breath.

Read More: “What is Mindfulness and How To Be Mindful”

With generational family patterns, shame has a part in how you show up for yourself. Meditation can help replace shame hits or intentionally producing shame within yourself.

For example, a shame hit can be scrolling social media to compare, calling a person you know can’t show up for you, or ruminating about a person you have idealized.

Shame hits can lead toward a shame spiral, but with a breath through meditation and mindfulness, you can reclaim peace within your day.

By replacing habits with a meditation practice, you can help end repetitive cycles that are playing out in your life.

A Cycle of Self-Sabotage

A cycle of self-sabotage can often be connected to low self-esteem. When you don’t feel like you are good enough, you may act out by getting in the way of your own success. I

t is not always a conscious choice that leads to self-sabotage, but it is an impactful one when it comes to your success, however you define it.

The narrative of not being good enough is prevalent, which can be detrimental to your health and wellness. There are strategies available to you so that you can make different choices going forward.

Limit Comparison.

This is easy to say and sometimes difficult to do. It is simple to scroll for hours online, want what others have, and ultimately repeat the structure of not good enough until you feel bad about yourself. Rest assured, you are not alone with comparative thinking and doing.

Read More: “5 Truths About Self-Love: The Benefits and How Tos”

By limiting comparison, you can lessen anxiety, depression, stress and tension. Knowing that everyone is trying their best, including you, can be helpful if you feel yourself wanting to compare yourself to others.

When a bad habit arises, you can address the behavior. This often takes a pause.

A short reflection can help you to right-size the issue. Take a moment to ask yourself why you want to be or do something similar to another person. Notice what you can about what you think the outcome would be if you had the same things.

Sometimes, limiting comparison means connecting your brain and heart. This is small act that can create a healthy relationship within yourself.

Make Small Changes.

When you don’t practice small changes, big shifts can feel much harder. When you feel self-sabotage happening, choose differently. Take a moment to pause, reflect, go outside, or write yourself a note with an affirmation.

Self-sabotage can lead to stress and dependency on coping skills that are unhealthy for you. When you replace habits, you can change them. Changing habits takes time, so be patient with yourself as you navigate new territory.

You don’t have to continue to step into self-sabotage and limit yourself. Success is not scarce. There is enough for everyone, no matter how you define it for yourself.

When Learned Behaviors Are No Longer Serving You

You may know it is time for a change when learned behaviors are becoming tiresome and difficult to manage. When things feel unmanageable, it normally indicates that you are ready for change. Instead of bottoming out, course correct your behaviors.

If you know that you want to make a change in your life, you are the best person to advocate for yourself. You can unlearn behaviors as much as you can learn them.

Here are strategies to help you do that:

Positively Reinforce Yourself.

Providing comforts to yourself as you unlearn is helpful because it may be an uncomfortable process. Reward yourself when you do something well.

If you want to reinforce a behavior, it’s helpful to follow through with yourself.

If you indicate that you want to cook at home more, start with foods you love. You can keep one promise at a time to lessen overwhelm.

A negative cycle can be prolonged when you rely on an old habit. Positive reinforcements build trust within yourself, and you deserve that.

Create Realistic Goals.

When you are unlearning, make goals for yourself along the way. You can set up a plan to meet the goals so that you can see your progress as you go.

If you are determined to unlearn a behavior, you can set a goal with a timeframe.

Read More: “Financial Self-Care Is Self-Care”

If you set a financial goal to get out of debt, acknowledge what you have already accomplished. If you come from a poverty cycle, getting out of debt can be even more difficult because you may be developing new skills. Your first goal can be to pay a small amount toward your debt and savings account each month.

You want the goal to be challenging but not overwhelming. You can redirect goals at any time, so practice as much as you need.


No matter which cycles you break, there are benefits. Your emotional regulation may strengthen, healthy coping strategies may become more accessible, and you may feel more fulfilled. Though it is not easy to navigate certain patterns in your life, you can unlearn at any time. This can create intimacy with yourself and others. You can create joy by breaking cyclesthrough self-empowerment.

If you are ready to break cycles in your life and want help in taking the first, last or any steps in between, working with one of our therapists in Denver, CO can be helpful. Sometimes our fears, anxiety, and self-doubts get in the way of us feeling confident in making changes in our lives. We can help you manage these, identify unhelpful cycles or patterns, and work with you to create your new direction. 

Learn More About Denver Metro Counseling

Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC