Any life story has content about that life pattern. The story has to have enough detail to explain the Event-Feeling-Decision-Responsibility-Elimination (EFDRE). For example, 'my mother took me to the store' tells about something that happened but there is little detail. On the other hand, 'my mother woke me and my sister up at three o'clock in the morning. She was drunk. She made us put on our shoes and coats, get into the car, and ride with her to the store. She swerved all over the road. She hit several mailboxes. I was terrified.' This story creates a compelling point about the relationship.
In the example above, the individual was supposed to meet for a family photograph. He was rushing home and caught in traffic. He called to see if he could delay the picture and his son told him to forget it. The son, a grown man, refused to have the picture made with him. Our friend was furious. He made several other calls all of which failed. Finally, his son quit taking his calls.
The real problem was that his new wife had set up the photo shoot. He feared she was upset because his previous family would not participate. She told him she was not, and it was no big deal. She would cancel the appointment.
Extremely angry, our friend, a recovering alcoholic, pulled off the interstate and drove to a convenient liquor store. He had been sober for three years. He had never drank around his new wife. He got drunk driving home. When he arrived, he was combative and aggressive with his wife. He pushed her. She told him to get out. He became worse. She finally locked herself in the bedroom and he passed out. In the morning, she told him to leave. He was extremely remorseful, but she stayed firm.
What does this story say about our friend's pattern? Obviously, he uses alcohol as a specific solution to his emotional upset. So alcohol is a response. If we work backward from the response, the decision becomes "I am powerless". He is some distance away from the actual scene. He is stuck in traffic. He cannot convince others to do what he wants over the phone (or even answer the phone). He refuses to believe his wife once he has decided to be helpless. So, he institutes a pattern he can control. He drinks. He drinks while driving. He becomes demanding and abusive when he gets home. From the time he substitutes the pattern he can control for the situation he cannot control, the outcome is assured. It will eventually become a disaster.
The feeling of being powerlessness sets his pattern in motion. He does not think through the situation or problem solve anything. He acts as if he is actually powerless, rather than examining the situation for what is real and responding appropriately. Instead, he overcomes his feeling by drinking and acting like a bully. This behavior, this decision, and this feeling have operated throughout his life.
As a microcosm of his life, he reacts the same each time he cannot control another's actions. He feels powerless. He reacts badly, losing jobs, mistreating friends, and losing relationships.
Putting the life event into an EFDRE process explains it clearly. The person can see what they did, why they did it, and what has to change in their thinking and behavior. Knowing what is wrong provides direction for change.
The pattern formed does not care if it is healthy or unhealthy. It simply functions to negotiate stress when emotion reaches a critical point.