Steps For Breaking Out of a Negative Feedback Loop

It’s been a tough few months for me. Professionally. Physically. And even and especially personally.

The kind of tough where the tears have come hard and frequent. The kind of tough where long nights have led to longer days. The kind of tough where I want to open up yet I’m afraid of breaking down. The kind of tough that calls on me to put in action all that I’ve learned over the past several years.

I’m not ready to write about much of it. And in truth, I may never choose to share much of the past few months. But I’ve also done quite a bit of thinking and now that some of the pressures are lifting, I’m ready to share some of those thoughts.

One of the hardest things in a relationship – any relationship – is to learn that you have been unintentionally bringing pain to another. It’s much easier to do than we realize. Patterns emerge, habits develop and we react instinctively instead of consciously. Inadvertently contributing to and feeding off of a negative feedback loop. A Möbius strip of unhappiness with no identifiable beginning and no end in sight.

As with any loop, inaction is an acceptance of the unchanging path. In order to change the pattern, steps – often painful and frightening – must be taken in order to sever the noose of negativity and to breathe in fresh air.

Recognize the Pattern

As with so many challenges in life, this first step is often the hardest. When we’re lost in the forest, we see the trees rather than the trail. Signs of a negative feedback loop include a sense of tension, a general uptick in criticism, positive bids for attention going unrecognized and a feeling of gears being misaligned.

Confront the Feedback Loop

This takes courage. Lots of courage. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable. A committment to speaking uncomfortable truths and being ready to listen to the same. It’s a balance of refusing to shy away from the difficult conversations and at the same time, striving to release any defensiveness that arises out of fear.

Be Open and Honest

This isn’t a time to bite your tongue. Those thoughts you hold back will fester and poison. But speak carefully with an intent to inform rather than a mission to destroy. Question your conclusions about yourself and others and be willing to consider alternatives to your assumptions. Conviction that you’re right helped get you into this place so replace it with inquiry and an unbiased mind.

Own Your Part

We judge others by their actions and yet we judge ourselves by our intentions. Regardless of the motivation behind your words and actions, listen to how they are received and be willing to make adjustments. Own your part of the contribution to the negative feedback loop and take responsibility for doing what you can to interrupt the cycle.

Seek Understanding

Assume nothing. Ask everything. Strive to see the big picture, understand the connections. It will be a process. A messy one. But a worthwhile one in the end. Because in order to untangle the cords keeping you stuck, you have to first see how they are intertwined.

Forgo Blame

This process is painful. Exquisitely so. And it’s easy and tempting and relieving to point fingers and offload blame. Easy and also pointless. Responsibility for getting into this place lies with both parties, so blame simply cancels out blame. And blaming becomes its own cycle, a viscous and ugly hold. This also extends to self-blame. Wallowing in guilt gets you nowhere. Learn backwards, focus forwards.

Step Back

Sometimes you have to take some steps backward before you’re ready to move forward again. Too much, too soon puts too much pressure and can easily overrun the new pathways before they’re fully formed. Rather than running over, try starting over.

Take Action

Staying in a loop requires nothing. Getting out requires effort. Intention. Action. Each person has to put in the work, both individually and collectively. Hold each other accountable. Hold yourself accountable. Change isn’t easy.

Stay Positive

Facing hard truths isn’t easy. Considering an uncertain future is terrifying. And letting that hurt and fear overwhelm you will ultimately destroy your chances of successfully moving past this point. Do what you can – do everything you can – to stay positive and optimistic.

Take Care of Yourself

Step up your self-care game. From nutrition, to sleep to social time, make an effort to address all areas of wellness. When one area is out of whack, it can be helpful to fortify the others so that they can help support you. And right now, you’re emotionally depleted. So feed your heart and soul in healthy ways.

Focus on Language

Be aware of how the other person hears and receives caring and loving thoughts. Make an extended effort to “speak” in the language that they hear. Both of you are fragile right now. Take care.

Be Patient

It takes time to build and settle into a negative feedback loop. Accept that it will take time to disassemble it as well. Be patient yet persistant.

Remember That You’re On the Same Side

Both of you want to be heard. To feel safe. And to feel loved. You want the same things even if you need them in different ways.

And remember that sometimes what we think of as the worst actually turns out to be the best thing to happen to us.

Even though these months have been hard, I’m proud of myself. I’m coming from a place of now, not reacting from the wounds of the past. I’m scared, but I’m facing my fears instead of pretending they’re not there. And I’m confident that I’ll be okay no matter what the future holds.

Thank you for sharing!

11 thoughts on “Steps For Breaking Out of a Negative Feedback Loop

  1. Loved it when you said “I’m facing my fears instead of pretending they’re not there. And I’m confident that I’ll be okay no matter what the future holds.” These things have a way of working themselves out. Thx for the inspiration and for penning this.

  2. Mary Lou – I'm still here and loving it! Nostalgia isn't my all-time favorite past time. I like to live in the present and look forward. When you reach a certain point in life it's good to look back and review this journey with new eyes ~ in a different place in time. I've arrived at a place in my life where the experiences I've had are coming together to form a collage of beauty and strength. A time where I can put a little more time into my love for water color painting and writing. Creating this website allows me to share some of the expressions of my gratitude and amazement of where this journey has taken me. It's my hope that it will encourage others to share their own story through written word and art.
    Mary Lou says:

    “I’m coming from a place of now, not reacting from the wounds of the past. ” Being aware that I am vulnerable to reacting from the wounds of the past has really helped me to stop and look at the what’s real now and does it still apply. Most times ….. No, it doesn’t. Very thoughtful post.

  3. SassaFrassTheFeisty – Indianapolis, IN – I'm a mother of two-mostly amazing-kids. This is my journey towards healing from the ruin of my marriage and 10 year relationship to my kid's "dad", my stories of dealing with really good and really bad days, learning to cope and move on. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 with mania and ADHD-look! Something shiny!!-and Postpartum Depression. I love completely and passionately. Just don't piss me off, because I'll burn that bridge-and I'll stand on it and watch the flames consume everything. Sass 101 First-As my name suggests I am a Feisty Lil Thang. I tell it like it is. It is no holds barred on my blog. If you expect fluffy puppies, rainbows and sunshine, exit Stage Right because it ain't gonna be here. If you expect no cussing and positivity, and that I pray to a God or deity, exit Stage Left. That's not here either. What's here is real, honest, raw and truthful. This is my journey through the last 18 months from the separation of my husband and the JOYOUS roller coaster my family has been on. Oh yes, I did forget to mention-I am a sarcastic quick witted one. Sasscasm is trademarked by the ever Butch Blah. Don't mess with her Dragon, he eats assholes for breakfast. We have a tribe here that is very exclusive-seriously. If you're lucky enough to enter, you are worthy enough to partake in our Femme Speak. If not, just nod your head yes, and move on. I have Bipolar 1 with mania and I cycle into depression 2 times a year. This year has been an exception to the rule considering this year has just been shit. I've been to my local psych hospital twice in less than 10 months-once for depression, once for a psychotic episode resulting from over medication. YAY! Piss on that shit. If it hadn't been for Blah, I never would have gone. Thank you Blah. I lurve you! I have 2 kids-a boy I call NSLM-Not So Little Man-because Anxious Mom has her LM. Didn't want to steal her LM's thunder :) And I have a daughter referred to as Monkey-it's self explanatory. They are also referred to as my Heathens-yes I can call them that because I gave birth to them, I know them and they act like Heathens at times-just thank the Good Lord they aren't Hellians or I'd be in jail. I have an almost 5 year old purebred Red and Black German Shepherd named May-she's momma's baby, and Monkey is on her THRID guinea pig in about a year-thank her dad for that one. This one is S'mores and he's a wheeker and fat and fluffy. My kids and I live with my parents, because I'm not stable or healthy enough to work and live on my own. I have FINALLY found my magic pill cocktail-for now-and I have clarity for the first time in my life. I no longer use the word "stable" I use baseline. I've been on a lot of meds over the years, and since the last med I was on and overmedicated I have become med sensitive-SUPER YAY. I'm good at recognizing side effects and can tweak a med time better than a dr. Not cocky, just fact. I'm that in tune with my body. I'm also very emotionally charged. My emotions have always ruled my decisions, and I don't see that changing, but I am now better to stop and think things through before making a decision-some of the time. I'm mouthy, but I have a huge heart of gold, and I get hurt easily. And when I talk about people on here in my life off of WordPress they get their own special nicknames. DB-Douchebag. BBFL-Best Bitch For Life-My best friend in Alaska that I HOPE I get to see soon. EG-English Gentleman-a guy that I've bee talking to for a year that lives near Scotland and is on an 8 month trip around the world, and will be stateside in January. I can't wait to meet him in person! Cute Neighbor Guy. There were two guys that were named for the states they lived in, and I think I've deleted everything about Florida but the last post-Thank you Andrew for the title, you brilliant dictionary, you. Then there are my most supportive friends here: Anxious Mom, Andi, Zoe, Diane, Morgue, Blah, Chris, Sparkly Pants ;) Victo, Tessa, Bipolarfirst, bp7o9, Vic, Kitt, Leslie, and my newest BUDDY Andrew. I know I've forgotten some people and I SERIOUSLY apologize given the state of my brain haze, I hope you don't hate me!! I know you don't, I'm just overly dramatic. No I'm not...yeah, yes I am. ;) So, if you can't handle my sarcastic tongue and my cursing that can make sailors blush, the lobby exit is in the top right corner with a little X. That being said, I hope you new arrivals aren't just looking for blogs for numbers-this isn't that kind of blog. And I rather like interactive people on my little slice of the crazy pie-well, more like peach cobbler because it's my favorite but ANYWAY. I don't follow back just because you follow me. I may not be too picky about my food, but I'm picky about my men and the blogs I follow. With that, I shall bid you Welcome to Sasstopia, and may you stay to be among my Sassafrains. Reggie my Pegacorn is tethered out back as he doesn't do well with new people. I shall be shining my spork launcher on the table, next to my melon baller and grapefruit spoon all soaked in syphilis. If you have any questions, fucking ask. I don't do vague. LOVE YOU! <3
    SassaFrassTheFeisty says:

    It makes me sad that you’ve had such a rough few months, but I know we all have them. Take care of yourself. We will be here when you’re ready 💖

  4. “We judge others by their actions and yet we judge ourselves by our intentions”. Genius! This post describes exactly where I am right now. It was so very helpful to me. Thank you. I’m sorry you’re having such a rough time. I wish I could help…magic words, healing thoughts. Hang in there.

  5. Lisa ~
    Peace to you as you struggle with another hurdle that life has thrown you. The community that you have built is here for you. No matter what. Your openness, kindness and humble heart are appreciated. Your words flowed from your heart today and a sense of great pain could be felt. One particular paragraph that spoke to me personally, was the following:

    Take Action

    “Staying in a loop requires nothing. Getting out requires effort. Intention. Action. Each person has to put in the work, both individually and collectively. Hold each other accountable. Hold yourself accountable. Change isn’t easy.”

    The hardest thing in life is living. Living with intention. It IS easier to just “do” and not think. Run from the messy and hide the hurt. That’s when we stay in the loop you mentioned. Doomed to repeat, never to live. But as you also pointed out it’s during these times that we must forgive ourselves, love ourselves, be kind to ourselves.

    Sending you oodles of positive energy and a huge hug 🙂

  6. struth71 – New Zealand – Mum of 3 beautiful kids. Coming up 2 years separated. Still on the roller coaster. A strong-minded, typical Taurean. I don't try to hide what I am - at my age, I'm not going to change the fundamentals. But I am still willing to learn and to 'smooth the edges'. Two years on, still got lots of hurt and anger - struggle to 'let go'. Hoping that this year will be the one where that just happens overnight.
    struth71 says:

    Wonderful, sane post. Good luck Lisa. Hope those rough seas settle down soon.

  7. Joy – I'm 42, a divorced, then remarried mom of an 8 year old girl, a 2 year old boy, and a bonus 12 year old son. I'm a writer and a coach, and sometimes, a teacher. People tell me I tend to be brutally honest and ...tell it like it is, so I had hoped to use this outlet to keep me sane while I got used to my new life as a stay-at-home Mom back when I was home with my worked. And it's been therapeutic through the end of a marriage and the emergence of me...
    Joy says:

    Love and light to you.

  8. A Familiar Stranger – Middlesbrough, North East England – My name is Matthew Williams, single father to two wonderful children, making it up as I go along. I am a blogger and author. I started my blog, Love, Laughter & Truth, in December 2015 as I attempted to make sense of my rollercoaster life following depression, divorce, and my introduction to the weird world of dating. My first book, Something Changed: Stumbling Through Divorce, Dating & Depression, was published in paperback by Sixth Element Publishing in December 2017, and is available to buy on Amazon. You can find my writing at I hope to see you there!. Very best wishes Matthew
    Love, Laughter & Truth says:

    Very best thoughts to you in this difficult time, facing our fears head on is one of the hardest, bravest things we can do and ultimately will serve us well despite the hurt we feel.

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