Question: “How do I interrupt my pattern of saying “Be careful” to my son all the time? I am aware I’m saying it an awful lot” (Part 3 of 3).
My final suggestion augments choice by increasing awareness; it is a suggestion that can be applied to any life pattern where the individual wants to change the pattern. I will describe the process as if I was talking to a client.
First, get a small notebook, one that you can be easily carried in a pocket. Carry a pen also. (It would be possible to use a Note app on a cell phone for this activity, but my belief is that a physical notepad and pen are more effective.)
Make a commitment to yourself that every time you do the activity you wish to change, you will take the notepad out of your pocket, and put a checkmark (√) on a page of the notepad. At the end of the day, you might have 20 checkmarks on the page. After you have done this activity for a few days, change the activity to that of making the checkmark before you do the behaviour, and then carry on with the behaviour if you so wish. (It sometimes helps initially to practice this activity with an activity that does not carry anxiety — for example, you could monitor the desire to go to the bathroom as rehearsal.)
Each day, when you are comfortable with making the checkmarks, choose one example of when you have done the activity to be changed. For that example, answer the following questions, with a few words only (KIS: Keep it simple): 1) name the behaviour, 2) what happened first (the first anything that lead you into the behaviour, 3) what happened next, 4) what happened next, 5) how did it end, 6) how did you feel at the end (probably after you said “Be careful”), 7) where in your body was the feeling (what sensation), 8) how was the feeling familiar (from earlier years or your own childhood), 9) when in your life did this particular feeling start, and 10) what feeling immediately preceded this feeling that you felt at the end, especially where in your body was this preceding feeling. (It may help to write these questions out in chart form, with blanks to be filled in each day.)
All of this is training in awareness, becoming familiar with the issues hidden within the behaviour to be changed. If the answers are fairly simple, this may be all you need to do. The recognition of the pattern, simply the requirement to make the checkmark, may interrupt the pattern enough for you to have choice, and do something different with your anxiety.
If not, deepen the process by now making checkmarks whenever you note the preceding feeling that occurred before the final feeling (see question #10 above). Carry on the same exploration with this sensation. If the behaviour is resolved, great; if not, continue to deepen the process, until you arrive at the very earliest suggestion within your body of the beginning of this pattern.
If still not resolved, there is almost certainly some early childhood learning to this behaviour (that you wish to change), something deeply engrained. It may be that the simple awareness gained from questions #8 (how familiar) and #9 (when started) will be helpful in resolution. Can you be playful with what you have learned? Or it may be that you need to work with a therapist to deepen further the resolution.