We all have Habits!
Some more than others!
Certain people have very peculiar habits that would make everybody else smile!
Others have life threatening habits which tend to tear families apart.
Most of us just plod along not even realising that our habitual behaviour even exists.
When obsessing patterns are in the way of our normal functioning, we try our darn hardest to get rid of them.
We will give our unwanted habits all our focus and energy in an attempt to be free again.
We will track our behaviour, monitor our improvements and beat ourselves up over the inevitable “slips”.
What we miss out is a very simple truth:
Habits are never the Problem but the Solution to our temporary Discomfort.
So what really happens when we feel our wicked urges?
We simply go off line !
Rather than wait and reset, our “lower brain” starts smelling danger and rings its internal alarm bell!
The lower brain is the oldest part of our brain, and it’s habitual and unintelligent.
This is essentially where the “fight or flight” response originates.
This part of our brain never really evolved and it’s also called “reptilian“. This poor dude is still adamant we live among dinosaurs and there is a real danger out there!
Everything and anything to do with our survival then starts from here.
So whenever we have a deeply ingrained habit, our “inner lizard” (another name for this “pattern-producing machine) pushes us into doing anything that will make us feel better.
Even if that means doing more of the crappy things we just want to stop doing!
It’s easy to see then how our habitual patterns are merely an attempt to go back on line and feel good again!
This would be a very good strategy if not for the fact that a) we don’t live in caves anymore and dinosaurs have long gone b) it really is OK to go offline from time to time.
We have “free won’t”!
So are we destined to a life of self damaging rituals?
Not at all, when we see that we do have a choice.
Dr Amy Johnson explains in her groundbreaking work how even though we may not be able to choose our brain’s response to different challenges, we have the choice whether to act on it or not.
The lower brain on its own is not capable to make us act on the urges it produces.
That choice can only come via our “higher brain” which is where our wisdom resides.
Once we see how our habits are not us and that we are the ones experiencing them, they slowly start to fade.
As Amy suggests in the “Little book of Big change”: “Neuroscientists refer to the ability to veto any thought that occurs to us as free won’t. The presence of urges is not our business – our free will can not determine what shows up. But the choice to respect those urges is where we do have some say. We have Free Won’t!”
Wrapping it up:
- the lower brain keeps us on a state of constant alert even when it’s all well around us
- you are NOT your urges. You are the one EXPERIENCING them
- urges, same as everything else, will eventually fade
- by the time you notice your urge, this is already on its way out
- when you see how you have the choice to act or not on your urges these start losing their grip on you
Would you like to learn how your thinking can be both very compelling and deceiving?
My coaching program Evoking Grace will offer you inspiring and effective ways to deal with everyday challenges while keeping your cool.
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Really interesting post Antonia
Thank you so much! Much Love from My heart to Yours x
I agree, I’m not in charge of the thought that pokes into my brain, but I am in charge of what I do with it and how I allow it to impact my actions and words. I’m also not in charge of the circumstances around me. I can plan a vacation in the sun and experience only rain, for example. I can either see that as a vacation ruined, or acknowledge it’s not what I expected, but it doesn’t have to be a disappointment. The most difficult habits to break are mental ones–one’s where I tell myself a story over and over that damages my relationships or my sense of self. It’s hard to become aware of these mental habits, but it can happen with practice! I love your focus on helping your readers gain perspective on simple things that can make a huge difference. Thanks for the post!
Blessings Angela and thank you ever so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. I teach what I need to learn, hence my writing about everyday stuff which we all struggle with. The enlightened soul same as the shallow person. I agree when you say that mental habits are trickier to spot. They are so ingrained, they almost become us! Yet, when we understand the role Thought plays in our life and how we are not whatever we are doing but the awareness of it, then somehow we can create a little breathing space between us and those patterns. In that space, it’s easier to see how those urges are just our attempt to be ok given the mental state we are in: “If I think or do this…then I’ll be ok!”. It’s just a colossal misunderstanding we all fall for….The more we can dwell in that space, the wider it will become, the quieter our mind will be. In that silence it will be easier to watch those urges and not act on them, till they fade. Always happy to chat if I can be of help! Much love from My heart to Yours x