Sometimes, the patterns are good, and we seek them out in threatening situations. Sometimes, the patterns are associated with fear, and we subconsciously try to avoid them.
When we understand these pattern recognition features in our own brains, we can modify our behavior, or our caregivers can modify their behavior, to cause more healthy outcomes in our lives.
In my case, I can be very upset without really understanding what is going on. I am not a person who is very close to my own feelings. In fact, emotional things make me uncomfortable. I always try to take the emotionally challenging situations that I am not able to avoid to my significant other, hoping she will take the emotional baggage of the situation and let me do the logical problem-solving that I am comfortable with.
My wife somehow knows intuitively that there is something about her hair that influences me. I get upset when she says it is time to cut it. She kindly and patiently works with my obsession. She won't cut it shorter than shoulder length, and I won't throw a fit. As a teenager, I threw a fit when my mother wanted to go to the beauty parlor to get her hair cut. (What is wrong with me?!!) It wasn't until last week, when I was reminded of the first day of the first grade, that I began to understand these underlying issues and deeply-embedded, emotional patterns and triggers in my own life.
Let me tell you how powerful that image is in my patterning! I can be in panic mode in a strange place (re-living the emotional trauma of the first day of the first grade, I guess), such as when I take a trip to a new destination, but if a long black pony tail comes into my view, I am instantly calmed. I assume it is like what taking a Valium does for some people. Maybe if they knew what was their long black pony tail, they wouldn't need the pill.
There are negative trigger patterns, as well. If you had a traumatic situation in your early experience that resulted in a bad or negative result, you may well be sabotaging your own life happiness by recognizing the pattern and assuming its consequence will happen again, if you continue on the path. I have counseled one woman who envisioned her father's rejection (real or imagined) when a paramour got close to her. She was identifying even the "good" options with the rejection she felt by her father, and would subconsciously sabotage the relationship.
Why do we do what we do in different situations? It is because of learned patterns in the neural networks of our brains. The earlier the pattern was learned, the less visible it will be to us. The more traumatic the learning experience was, the more ingrained the pattern will be, i.e., the harder to change.
The good news that I am convinced of is that change is possible. The box we are trapped within is malleable; it can be reshaped. What is your long black pony tail?