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Martin Challis
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november 2007

Patterns of Recognition


Our brain builds patterns as we learn. When an event or stimulus of any sort occurs, our brains look for similar recorded patterns in order to make a reference to help us interpret, synthesise and make choices.

If we experience or witness an event that falls outside the brain's set of recorded and familiar events our brain works quickly to build a neural pattern of recognition to help us to place it in context.

Simply put: what is recorded both consciously (within our awareness) and unconsciously (outside our awareness) is an assembly or accrual of patterns of recognition.

Patterns of recognition refer to patterns the brain recognises. Whether we are aware of the patterns or not is a separate function of consciousness.

Evolving consciousness is an increased capacity to identify patterns of recognition and make decisions about the patterns themselves.

As we build patterns of recognition they infuse or percolate into our 'whole system' – not just our brains. As all cells are connected in the whole system, patterns of recognition also connect through the whole system. This is another way of saying that our bodies manifest our conscious thoughts, unconscious habits, beliefs and feelings.

As patterns of recognition become embedded into our psyche, habits are formed and ensuing behaviours develop, some of which are unthinking; we are aware of others and can assume they are part of who we are and are unchangeable.

We accept the practice of unpacking habitual repetitive or unconscious thought patterns as part of a process of developing consciousness. There are many professionals who can guide this process for us.

As we work to make visible the patterns of thinking that have immersed themselves over the years, we see that some of the patterns are useful and some have become less useful. Some patterns as we discover are self limiting or worse; destructive.

Fortunately we have within us an inbuilt detector system to tell us when there may be something amiss with the system. To use a computer analogy, the virus detector tells us that a piece of code either needs to be updated or deleted.

That detector system is our ability to notice emotions and feelings and connect them to thoughts and patterns. Emotions are the energy that is expressed within and from our bodies and feelings are the register of sensations that work in our minds. With the detector system we can evaluate and measure: thoughts, actions and behaviours as we work with awareness and within a conscious process.

Using this mechanism it is possible to identify the thoughts and patterns that do not 'feel' good. And identify they are potentially counter productive to our deeper drives or desires.

If we look within our creative practice (I refer to anything that we identify as our joy, pre-occupation, muse or activity of deep engagement); there will no doubt be areas of satisfaction and areas of less satisfaction or times of flow and times of interruption to flow.

All these are rich with information if we care to tune in to them. We have two mechanisms at our disposal to help us tune in: our attention and our feelings. Using these two mechanisms with focus and acuity can reveal much.

Using these mechanisms within the site of our creative practice can assist deep reflection in order for the patterns of recognition to emerge.

We also have embedded patterns within our creative practice. But how shall we discover them? How shall we tell if they are useful or limiting?

It is not until a pattern surfaces that we can see it and evaluate it. So attention then is placed in the surfacing process. This surfacing process is what is known as Reflective Practice.

Before a pattern has surfaced we may be aware of its existence through a sense of disturbance or interruption to flow. Or we may be completely unaware of its existence until through an unplanned event or external intervention it is revealed.

At the point of awareness or surfacing we can make a decision. Do we: leave it unchanged; alter the pattern if we have the means to do so; discard it or begin the process of letting it go?


As we develop as conscious beings various behaviours are modelled to us through others. Parents, teachers, piers, relatives, colleagues, leaders, coaches and on it goes. Their behaviours, mannerisms, beliefs, emotions and actions influence us and find their way to assisting the formation of our patterns of recognition. Some of which we are aware and others not.

How does it happen that some patterns become embedded without our knowing?

They are not recognised by us when we do not stay watchful. When we pursue a life unexamined. When we 'just do it' and continue to 'just do it' without regard for the feedback that is presenting itself to us. Feedback is being offered continuously; much like a signal emitted by a transmitter. Whether we receive the transmission is entirely up to us.

The process of building Patterns of Recognition occurs directly though cognitive choice and indirectly through assimilation (hence the influence of role- modelling): both are experiential, the former is more likely to remain in our awareness the latter is more likely to remain submerged.

Using a reflective process of evaluating thoughts, choices, behaviours, feelings and responses it is possible to access patterns of recognition that have been deeply embedded.

Both types of Patterns of Recognition can become limiting and less helpful as both can be presented as 'givens'; without intervention, without listening to feelings, without paying due attention we can assume they are locked.


The artist was asked three questions? What is your greatest attribute as an artist? What is your greatest challenge? And what is the next step you wish to take in your journey as an artist?

He replied: my greatest attribute is my courage and generosity in my work; my greatest challenge is that I know I control too much; my next step is to work for greater creative freedom.

Next he was asked to close his eyes and put his attention on the qualities and the sensations of his greatest attribute; to attend to these qualities, and to let them come.  To let them come with each breath. He placed his attention on the patterns of recognition that supported these qualities. He felt nourished, sustained and deeply satisfied. He breathed deeply and let all this come.

Then he was asked to switch his attention to the qualities and sensations of his greatest challenge, and in so doing to let them go with each breath. To let them go as he breathed out. He placed his attention on the patterns of recognition that held these qualities.

He released the sensations. He allowed the tensions associated with this pattern to pass. He felt lighter, calmer and more satisfied. He breathed deeply and let all this go.

After 5 minutes he opened his eyes. He noticed that it was as if before him a space had opened. Within this space he felt a sense of great presence, peace and freedom.

And found he'd taken his next step.

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About This Article

©2007 Martin Challis
©2007 Publication Scene4 Magazine


Martin Challis is an actor and director in Australia. He's also the director of the Studio For Actors and Ensemble Works.
For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives
Read his Blog


Scene4 Magazine-International Magazine of Arts and Media

november 2007

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