Breaking the Pattern of Sisyphus: How to Let Go of Negative Patterns

Author and motivational speaker

We all have habitual, negative thinking, feeling and doing patterns that sabotage our success, happiness and well-being. They become so ingrained that we think we have no power to change them. They simply become part of our daily life.

Being passionate about Greek mythology and archetypes, I thought of how the myth of Sisyphus might relate to our lives. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the myth, let me tell you about it.

Sisyphus — a crafty and arrogant man — was condemned by Zeus for his bad deeds to roll a rock up a hill, only to have it roll right back down before he could get it to the top. He would have to repeat this task day after day for eternity — a punishment you might not wish on your worst enemy, unless perhaps he was an ex-husband, wife or lover who left you for your best friend.

So, everyday he rolled that rock up the hill, and lo and behold, down came the rock. Sisyphus was under a spell — a severe punishment from the gods. But what could Sisyphus do to break the spell? If you’re anything like me, you would look for a way to stop with the rock already! One way I’d say to handle the challenge is one of the most time-tested (and fairy-tale embedded) methods: Whistle while you work. Even the most mundane or difficult things in life become a little easier when you whistle, don’t you agree? That certainly would have made it more fun!

Or he could give up and not do anything the next day but sit on the rock and gaze out into the beautiful Mediterranean landscape. Focusing more on the beauty around would be an excellent escape.

He could shout for help from someone… two people rolling that rock up the hill is much easier than one. Or, instead of letting the rock do it’s thing and roll right back down, when he got to the top, he could defy the expectations and push that bloody rock over the top of the hill. Maybe pushing a little bit harder would break the spell.

Or, what if, while he was up there, he kicked the rock with such force that it rolled all the way down the mountain, into the valley and through the river? He’d have to follow it to find it, and the rock would show him a whole new way! What if he sang “rock a bye, baby” to the rock and rocked himself to sleep? The point is, there are many ways to break through self-imposed habits that can feel like punishment from the gods.

But, I think the best way to handle it would have been if Sisyphus didn’t buy into the absurdity of the sentence in the first place. Many of us are like Sisyphus, in that we perpetuate our own suffering and buy into the condemnation. We create our own (seemingly interminable) sentences. It really comes down to how we choose to see these situations that seem like such dire punishments.

Let’s imagine what would have happened if Sisyphus woke up one morning and said, “This is a myth! I don’t have to push that rock up and down ever again if I don’t want to. I don’t have to make believe it will be different tomorrow. I don’t have to suffer… I can leave that rock, and I can leave that mountain, and I can go to another place! I can go to the plains where there are no mountains, or I can go to a field of flowers, or a river, or a big city!” What if Sisyphus knew he had choices?

Even though the traditional myth hasn’t allowed him to break the spell of his punishment, I say, you are not enslaved like Sisyphus. Sometimes our rock is a struggle and we can’t give up the struggle. We are invested in the fact that we’re the only ones who can solve the puzzles of our situations — but there are many other people in this world who would be happy to extend their help with our obstacles. Maybe the way to break the spell is to ask. Ask, but don’t stop when you get a “no.” Ask until you get help.

So now I ask you: What is your rock you’ve been rolling up the hill? Is it your relationship with your significant other? Is it your complaining about your job? Is it an addiction to sugar, coffee and/or alcohol, or being an emotional eater? Is your Sisyphean rock broken promises or future wishing with no action? Is it being the savior or the martyr, always taking care of others and neglecting yourself? Or is it a certain resentment that keeps festering inside?

It could also be comparison, guilt, competition, anger, procrastination, an attitude of defeat or a belief that love will never find you. Or is it your expectations of how things should be that cuts off your ability to live in the moment? Holding onto these rocks gives us sense of self-rejection or self-abandonment, which lock in the negative beliefs and patterns within ourselves that spoil what is good in our daily life. I always have to put down the rock of my critical voice, my resistance to doing those things that uplift me and ride up that mountain with the joy lift.

What rock keeps draining your life force? Isn’t it time you put the rock down and walked into your clear path, which is right down the mountain from where you are standing? Stop investing in your myth and invest in you. You are much more worthy than your myth or the rock you are carrying on your back! You may be thinking that the gods are punishing you, but you’re the only one who can give them that authority. It’s time that you demystified those punishing gods inside of you and put them in their place. Tell them to go take a hike. Take your authority back from them. And when you do, you can be an example — a light to others to show them how you stepped out of your Sisyphean gridlock and broke the chains.

I’d love to know what is your personal “Sisyphus rock.” and what you did with it.

Write me at Books & More From Agapi Stassinopoulos

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