Merry-go-round of Misery
A blog article about bad habits...
There you are suddenly realising something that has been your escapism, your fantasy resort, your avoidance from reality and all of its hardship is needing to be amputated from your life. Maybe you knew intellectually for months or even years that this habit was breaking you - but as we do when something feels so good, even if just for a moment, you choose to ignore your inner knowing and carry on. Even when that means breaking every boundary you ever had to try and make it work for you. For some, the destructive nature of their habits has been glaring in the face for a while- for others it a sudden insight. Regardless of which group you fall into; changing is hard and requires considerable effort. And we are not talking one quick push here, we are talking sustained and stable efforts towards something that you may not be able to taste the fruit of yet even in your imagination. No matter how unhealthy our habits have become, they sure manage to plug a hole in our life. And act to fill us with brief -but temporary- numbness, relief -or even highs. Like an anaesthetic shot at the dentist; We get to feel temporarily free-ish of the pain – but we still feel a bit of the pain right!? Like a bad tingle that tells us that without that shot we would have been squirming in discomfort. But with it- it was tolerable. Same with our bad habits. It is not as if we fool ourselves all that well. Most of us know intuitively what is right or wrong for our wellbeing. It’s just that some of us are a bit ‘better’ at overriding those boundaries (that are our innate self-protection and instinct!) with dysfunctional behaviours and routines. So much so that these dysfunctional habits have become ‘what we do’; a place of deeply uncomfortable, but familiar, comfort. Somewhere deep inside of us there is that knowingness that tells us that what we are not operating in line with our core values or higher self. Unfortunately those bad little habits also have a voice .. they talk to us way more seductively. Tell us all the lies and excuses that we need to hear to just go ahead and cause more problems for ourselves. What is important to understand is; THAT voice will not stop -until WE stop doing what we are doing. And sometimes even after we stop entertaining our bad habit behaviourally – that voice still tries to seduce us back in for long periods of time. That voice can even make guest appearances years after a deeply ingrained habit or addiction has been put to an end.
Look at your stop signals!
So, when should we draw the line under a habit and decide we had ENOUGH? If you’re in the camp that find yourself humming along to the good old MJ ‘Don’t stop to you get enough’ in the name of justifying a bad habit, please stop and ask yourself: What exactly would qualify as ENOUGH? Here is a good example of how skewed our stop signals can become. For 7 years I’ve run groups for homeless problem gamblers in London. I always ask them … what are you waiting for? When are you going to admit to yourself that chasing losses and gambling more is not going to make you win, settle any debts or get back on your feet or into accommodation again? What would signal to you that you had enough? Several of them have answered this question with ‘I think I just need to hit rock bottom first’ So this illustrates the point I am trying to make. The emotional brain does not measure ‘enough’ with anything even resembling objectivity. It measures enough with a feeling of ‘enough-ness’. That feeling is entirely arbitrary and may never quite occur actually. It could come after 3 months of gambling/drug taking/alcohol use/procrastination/avoidance/bad love habits ….(fill this space with whatever blocking habit you are engaging yourself with) This is if you are one of those people who are great at looking after your own needs and wants, have a high level of self-love and respect and have healthy boundaries in general. But for some – and don’t be depressed here- this would comprise the majority of the population- it takes a very long time to recognise that something you are doing, or just as often avoiding doing, has become a form of self-sabotage.
So, if we cannot consult our emotional brain and check when we had enough- what do we do?? How do we tell the difference between genuinely healthy goals and emotional goals? And how do we take the first steps to stop those bad habits that paralyse us and keep us stuck on a merry-go-round of misery.