arguing pattern behavior 4 21

Watch Video Version on YouTube

Once upon a time, a baby elephant was chained to a stake in the ground. The chain was only a few feet long, so the baby elephant could only walk around in a circle around the stake. As the days went by, he tried to pull and tug at the chain, but it was too strong. Eventually, he gave up and accepted its limited range of movement.

Years passed, and the baby elephant grew into a strong adult elephant. Even though the elephant was now strong enough to break free from the chain, it never tried to do so. The elephant had become accustomed to the chain and its limited space to move in. It believed it was still limited today, just as it had been as his younger self.

This allegory reflects the same behavior that can occur in humans. When we are younger, we learn specific patterns of behavior and ways of thinking from our parents, peers, and environment. These patterns become deeply ingrained in our minds and can be challenging to break as adults.

For example, a person who grew up in a household where money was scarce might have a scarcity mindset even when they become financially stable. They may feel compelled to hoard their cash and avoid taking financial risks, even when this behavior is no longer necessary.

Some Other Common Patterns

Communication patterns

A person who grew up in a household where conflict was avoided, for example, may struggle to communicate assertively or express their needs clearly in adult relationships. Instead, they may resort to passive-aggressive behavior or withdraw from the relationship altogether. Alternatively, a person who grew up in a household where yelling and aggression were commonplace may struggle to communicate calmly and constructively in relationships, resorting to verbal attacks or threats when frustrated or threatened.

innerself subscribe graphic

Breaking this pattern requires an awareness of the patterns and a willingness to learn and practice new communication skills. This may involve addressing underlying emotional issues and practicing new communication techniques with trusted friends or family members. It may also require an openness to feedback and a willingness to take responsibility for one's communication style, even when difficult or uncomfortable. By breaking the communication patterns which are not serving us, we can improve our relationships and deepen our connection with others.

Self-esteem issues

Low self-esteem can affect many areas of our lives, including relationships, career, and personal fulfillment. It can lead to feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and depression, as well as difficulty in setting boundaries or taking risks.

For example, a person who grew up in an environment where their accomplishments were downplayed or dismissed may struggle to believe in themselves and their abilities as adults. They may avoid taking on new challenges or opportunities out of fear of failure or rejection, or they may settle for less than they can achieve. Similarly, a person who experienced abuse or neglect as a child may struggle with self-blame and a sense of powerlessness, making it difficult to establish healthy relationships or pursue their goals.

Breaking patterns of low self-esteem often requires examining and challenging negative self-talk, setting achievable goals, celebrating small successes, developing self-compassion and self-care routines, and seeking support from trusted friends or family members. Over time, with effort and dedication, it is possible to break the patterns of low self-esteem and cultivate a more positive sense of self-worth and self-confidence. This can lead to greater happiness, fulfillment, and success in all areas of life.


People-pleasing can be a complicated pattern to break because it is often rooted in a deep-seated fear of disapproval or rejection. People-pleasers may believe they are only valuable or lovable if they meet the needs and expectations of others. This can lead to a pattern of over-committing, neglecting their own needs, and sacrificing their values and beliefs to please others.

For example, a person who grew up in a household where their parents or caregivers had high expectations and demands may have learned that the only way to receive love and approval was by meeting these expectations. As an adult, this person may continue to prioritize other people's needs and desires over their own, even to their detriment. They may struggle to say "no" to requests or demands from others, even when it conflicts with their values or priorities. This can lead to burnout, resentment, and a lack of fulfillment.

We must be willing to examine the underlying beliefs and fears that drive the behavior and commit to developing new skills and habits that prioritize self-care and self-compassion. This may include setting clear boundaries with others, learning to say "no" without guilt, and seeking support from trusted friends. It may also involve learning to identify and challenge negative self-talk and beliefs reinforcing the people-pleasing pattern. By breaking this pattern, individuals can learn to prioritize their needs and desires, build more authentic and fulfilling relationships, and live more satisfying lives.


Perfectionism is a behavior pattern that can have positive and negative effects on individuals. On the one hand, striving for excellence and setting high standards can motivate and lead to personal growth and achievement. On the other hand, perfectionism can become problematic when it leads to unrealistic expectations, fear of failure, and self-criticism.

For example, a person who grew up where success was highly valued and mistakes were heavily criticized may have developed a pattern of perfectionism to avoid criticism and maintain approval. As an adult, this person may struggle to take risks or try new things, fearing that failure will be seen as a personal flaw or weakness. They may also experience anxiety and stress related to meeting their high standards, leading to burnout or disengagement.

Breaking the pattern of perfectionism requires a willingness to reframe one's beliefs and attitudes about success, failure, and self-worth. This may involve developing self-compassion and acceptance of one's imperfections, challenging unrealistic expectations and beliefs, and taking small steps toward risk-taking and vulnerability. By breaking the pattern of perfectionism, individuals can reduce anxiety and self-criticism, cultivate greater resilience and self-confidence, and lead a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

Avoidance Issues

Avoidance is a typical pattern of behavior that can have negative consequences on an individual's life. Avoidance can be particularly damaging when it becomes a habit that prevents individuals from addressing important issues or making necessary changes in their lives. Avoidant individuals may miss out on opportunities for personal and professional growth, and they may need help to build meaningful relationships with others.

For example, a person who grew up where conflict was avoided may have learned it was better to keep quiet and avoid confrontations. This person may avoid difficult conversations or situations that could lead to conflict, even when it is necessary or beneficial. They may also avoid taking on new challenges or pursuing their goals out of fear of failure or rejection.

Breaking the pattern of avoidance, individuals can cultivate greater resilience and courage, and build more fulfilling and meaningful relationships and experiences in life. Breaking avoidance patterns requires a willingness to face one's fears and step outside of one's comfort zone. This may involve practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques to manage anxiety and developing a plan for gradually confronting and overcoming avoidance behaviors. It may also include developing self-compassion and a growth mindset that values learning and progress over perfection or success.

Control Issues

Control issues can be a challenging pattern of behavior that can have negative consequences on relationships. Controlling individuals often believe that they know what is best, for themselves and thus others, and may feel a need to control not only their environment but also the people around them in order to feel safe and secure. This pattern can lead to strained relationships, isolation, and feelings of resentment and frustration.

For example, a person who grew up where chaos and unpredictability were common may have developed a pattern of controlling behavior to feel a sense of stability and security. As an adult, this person may struggle with trusting others, delegating tasks or decision-making, or relinquishing control over their environment or relationships. This can lead to tension and conflict in relationships and difficulty adapting to change or unexpected events.

Releasing destructive control patterns requires developing new skills and habits that prioritize flexibility, trust, and healthy boundaries. This requires developing self-awareness, mindfulness, and learning to embrace uncertainty and change as a natural part of life. We can cultivate more beneficial and more fulfilling relationships, build greater resilience, and enjoy greater peace of mind and well-being.

The Process and The Result

It can be a difficult and sometimes painful process to break these long-developed behaviors and attitudes. We must be willing to examine our past and present experiences, question our assumptions, and embrace new perspectives and ways of being.

The result can be exhilarating and profound and is so very necessary if we want to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

About the Author

jenningsRobert Jennings is co-publisher of with his wife Marie T Russell. He attended the University of Florida, Southern Technical Institute, and the University of Central Florida with studies in real estate, urban development, finance, architectural engineering, and elementary education. He was a member of the US Marine Corps and The US Army having commanded a field artillery battery in Germany. He worked in real estate finance, construction and development for 25 years before starting in 1996.

InnerSelf is dedicated to sharing information that allows people to make educated and insightful choices in their personal life, for the good of the commons, and for the well-being of the planet. InnerSelf Magazine is in its 30+year of publication in either print (1984-1995) or online as Please support our work.

 Creative Commons 4.0

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author Robert Jennings, Link back to the article This article originally appeared on


Related Books:

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

by James Clear

Atomic Habits provides practical advice for developing good habits and breaking bad ones, based on scientific research on behavior change.

Click for more info or to order

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too)

by Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies identifies four personality types and explains how understanding your own tendencies can help you improve your relationships, work habits, and overall happiness.

Click for more info or to order

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know

by Adam Grant

Think Again explores how people can change their minds and attitudes, and offers strategies for improving critical thinking and decision making.

Click for more info or to order

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

by Bessel van der Kolk

The Body Keeps the Score discusses the connection between trauma and physical health, and offers insights into how trauma can be treated and healed.

Click for more info or to order

The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness

by Morgan Housel

The Psychology of Money examines the ways in which our attitudes and behaviors around money can shape our financial success and overall well-being.

Click for more info or to order