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  • Writer's pictureJason

How to Identify Limiting Emotional Patterns

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

How is your emotional state today? Stop reading for a moment, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths while scanning how you are feeling.

Keep in mind, feelings are temporary states, not fixed permanent traits. We can often stay fixated on feelings for longer than serves us, rather than let them go. On average a feeling comes and goes in 90 seconds- unless we cling to it.

We can think of certain emotions like primary colors, meaning the pure ones that are less complex and not yet blended. Experts on the topic debate a definitive list but we can consider these emotions to be pretty primary:

  • Joy

  • Excitement

  • Surprise

  • Disgust

  • Fear

  • Guilt

  • Shame

  • Anger

  • Sadness

Easy to notice what you want more of right?

Unless you've been manic, it's safe to assume that everyone would be cool with having more joy or excitement in their life. There are not typically patterns of joy or excitement holding us back so we'll skip those for now.

Surprise is a mixed bag but doesn't create self limiting patterns either. Disgust is no fun but again there doesn't tend to be tangled emotional patterns here. There can be some pleasure associations in disgust but that is some shadow material for another day.

This leaves 5 core emotions that often create self limiting beliefs or hold us back. As we dive into our self exploration we do well to consider our relationships to these typical emotions patterns.

The below lists are not exhaustive but are a great starting point to see which of the "less pleasant" emotional patterns are controlling our lives to a greater or lesser extent. You can also think of these as toxic emotional residues that clog up our system.

Fear Patterns

Fear of...



Being wrong

Being right

Expressing myself

Trusting life

Trusting myself  

Not being enough

Being too much


The future

Making a mistake

Being judged

That I am flawed, broken, or damaged

Not being liked

Being loved

Not being loved

Being worthy or not being worthy

What other people think of me

Being vulnerable

Being seen

Being unseen

Looking stupid, dumb or incompetent



Losing everything

Being homeless

Being poor

Being wealthy



Having no money

Running out of money

Having money

Not being in control

Being in control

Not doing enough

Doing too much

Not being supported

Being supported

Being abandoned  

Being alone


Being forgotten

Guilt Patterns

(I feel bad about)

Guilt about...

Past actions/things I have done

My privilege

Having money/being wealthy (especially when others in the world are suffering)

Having no money/being poor (especially when others around you are well off)

Being happy/joyful/prosperous (especially when others in the world are suffering)

Being sad/depressed/lonely (especially when others around you are great)

Doing things just for fun

Not doing enough

Shame Patterns

(I AM bad because of)

Shame about...

Myself My body My sexuality My sexual preferences My actions/past actions My family

A group I belong to

My species

My beliefs My education My accomplishments or perceived lack thereof My life situation My job/work My success/lack of success Having money Not having money My ethnicity Things that have happened to me

Anger Patterns


With myself With someone else

With how people act

With things that happened to me in the past

About a perceived injustice to myself About a perceived injustice in the world/society About a perceived injustice to someone else

Over how a situation turned out That things went wrong That things did not turn out how I had hoped

Sadness Patterns

Feeling hopeless...

About my future About life About a specific situation

Feeling depressed/sad...

About the loss of someone or something Feeling trapped/limited by...

My past My current situation My upbringing My ethnicity

Which of these feel true or charged for you?

Try some journaling or meditation on those as starting point. When was the last time you felt like that? The first time? This exercise can help you gain more insight and control of your life.

Becoming aware of these patterns is the first step towards letting go of the hold they have on you.

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