Hell goes round and round

Every religion or spirituality has their own unique way of describing inner phenomena.  They're coming at it from a different narrative, but they're really describing the same thing.  When I was a Christian, I read My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, and I remember one devotional very clearly- it said something like "When you fail a test that God gives you, He cycles you back to square one to repeat the test, and he will do that over and over again until you pass." 

A Jungian on the other hand, like Robert A. Johnson, will describe the repetition of our unhealthy choices in terms of complexes, a set of "nonadaptive and suboptimal" psychic patterns deeply embeded in the unconscious that influence what happens in the conscious realm.

  A firing neuron.   Image from lazyprogrammer.me

A firing neuron.  Image from lazyprogrammer.me

Johnson then points out that neuroscientists today have a different way of describing patterns that we get stuck in- we have one hundred billion neurons that are connected by neural networks and those networks get strengthened the more they fire together.  They fire in certain patterns that are really hard to "break".  You need a mindfulness practice to create a space of time between firing and your reaction. 

Johnson quotes from novelist Flann O'Brien, reminicent of Chamber's cyclic tests from "God".  "Hell goes round and round.  In shape it is circular and by nature it is interminable, repetitive and very nearly unbearable."

Whatever metaphor or scientific explanation works for you to help you get out of your stuckness, go with that.  I personally think science has been invaluable for lighting the way to get out of old patterns, but we also need an accompanying mindfulness practice.  We get pretty down on ourselves when we're caught in our cycles; mindfulness creates that space between stimulus and response in a compassionate way... unless God does it for you, then run with that.