CHAPTER XV:  How Distress Patterns Become Chronic

For all of us adults, however, a few distress patterns have been re-stimulated to the point of becoming chronic. These have become, in effect, recordings which play all of the time.

The chronic patterns can be described in various ways. It is as if the push button for these recordings was pushed so often it broke in the ON position. It is as if these recordings finally “built their own turntables” and play all the time. It is as if the person has made some kind of surrender to these particular patterns.

The chronic pattern is worn by the individual as if it were a portable prison cage. He/She remains rational, flexible, and intelligent only in ways that do not contradict the chronic pattern.  (Fig. 13)

We view our own latent distress patterns as difficulties, as “problems," if we are aware of them at all. The chronic pattern will, on the other hand, be defended by the wearer as the “only way to be” if it is called in question. We defend these chronic behaviors and feelings if they are held up for discussion. We compulsively and unhappily regard them as our “personalities” or, at worst, “interesting idiosyncrasies.”

Permissive counseling will not suffice to undo a chronic pattern, though it is usually quite sufficient for a latent one. Much more resource, time and ingenuity will go into unraveling a chronic pattern and freeing the wearer from it than are necessary for a latent one. The counselor needs to be equipped with a thorough understanding of the difference.

Chronic patterns become very “total” in their effect upon their victims. They are manifested in postures, repetitive cliches of speech, rigid rituals of behavior that are included in the responses to all situations. They include chronic emotional atittudes. These emotional attitudes will become etched upon a person’s facial expression in the signs of grief, anxiety, etc., which most older adults wear whenever in “repose.”

Yet chronic patterns arise and have their sources in exactly the same occurrences as the lighter or “latent” patterns. Each is the residue of unevaluated experiences of distress acting as compulsive recordings of behavior and feelings. The chronic recording simply plays all the time once it becomes re-stimulated past a critical point.


Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07