How to Break Free From a Vicious Cycle
There’s an image that gives me the creeps — that feeling you get when you think something’s crawling on you, or a torturous itch you can’t scratch.
It’s the mental image of myself standing in the same spot, holding a ball and chain much like the one used in the hammer throw, using centrifugal force to keep the ball and chain in the air, circling on its own orbit. I feel stuck, unable to get out of position for fear of disrupting the circular path, therefore forced to actively keep spinning without leaving the exact same spot.
That’s the image I associate with vicious circles. Even thinking about it makes my body tense up.
We all know what it’s like to be stuck in a situation, relationship, mindset, or habit which, on a rational level, we know we have the power to overcome, but in reality feel too paralysed to change.
Centrifugal force is defined as ‘a force, arising from the body’s inertia, which appears to act on a body moving in a circular path and is directed away from the centre around which the body is moving.’
Inertia. That’s the fuel to the flames of a vicious circle.
First, let’s be clear. It is damn HARD to break free from the paralysing grip of a negative cycle. This is not an easy fix, but it can help.
If inertia feeds negativity, action is the logical counteraction.
If it isn’t possible to break free from the bigger ball and chain holding you hostage — be it external or self-imposed — you can still come up with small, bite-sized plans you can work towards. Ones that can only be achieved through action.
Set positive, achievable, actionable goals you can hold yourself accountable for. If you’re not in the right headspace, choose something that’s more physical rather than mental. For example, get out and hike. Follow a fitness program. Take up a new sport. Make jewellery. Paint. Play an instrument. Learn pottery! Well, do yoga. Anything that requires physical action and can lead to something positive.
Of course, anyone stuck in a vicious cycle would find it very hard to find motivation to take the first step, much less actually do any of these things. Listen, you don’t even need to have motivation if you really can’t find it within you just yet. When it’s a new physical activity, you can tell your body parts to go through the motions. Lift one foot and put it in front of the other. That’s all. Focus on breathing in, and then out. That’s it. Easy.
This will help you regain control over something and help you remember what it feels like to have control.
Give it time. Keep setting little actionable goals and repeating this virtuous cycle over and over. Time is your friend in this case. With time and consistency, you will gain enough confidence to take bigger actions — both physical and mental — to get out of the bigger negative cycle you’re stuck in.