Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Don't Be A Slave To Habit Part 2

by Miriam B. Medina

In part 1 of this two-part series, we explored how we are all slaves to habit in one way or another. We obsess over time or hygiene or safety. Some habits, if not taken too far, aren't bad for us, they're even good for us, but some habits are bad for us, and, even worse, for those we love. In this, part 2 of the 2 part series, we'll further explore some of these habits and examine how we can break bad habits and develop good ones.

People who have certain routines and who are not flexible are always in conflict with others who don't follow the same routine. Some bad habits can be embarrassing, irritating, and nerve-racking, such as nail-biting, teeth grinding, not flushing the toilet, passing gas at the dinner table, picking your teeth after a meal, picking your nose and taking wax out of your ears with your finger, blowing your nose into a tissue and looking at it afterwards. These are all bad habits.

I once saw a man and woman lick their plate in a diner, it was utterly disgusting, finishing the meal like a dog does. A friend of mine had a habit of talking with her mouth full, food dribbling out so she had to wipe her mouth on her sleeve. Of course, after seeing this, my invitations to eat out with her were limited. Yuck, the list of bad habits can be endless. Then you have those people who persist in continuing dangerous habits, such as those who perpetuate physical violence, such as men who are in the habit of bullying others or who physically attack their female counterparts. There is a certain depth and intensity to their emotional disturbance. The rage they experience is a highly charged physical change, wherein the urge to dominate and control is visually exposed as their face reddens, as their nostrils and pupils dilate, and as they clench their teeth and fists. The dangerous habit of physical abuse is the result of the abuser trying to appear powerful and intimidating by suppressing and belittling another individual's feelings of self-worth and independence. This power of control is the driving force that motivates the abuser. They exercise the same habitual pattern of attacking those weaker than themselves, starting with emotional and verbal abuse, escalating their dominance to an absolute powerful expression of physical strength. These individuals, those who participate in and continue this cycle of violence are in desperate need of psychological care in order to break the habit which they have programmed themselves into habitually following as a way of life.

In order to disrupt these often destructive, enslaving habit patterns, we need to develop productive habits that expand our intellectual horizons. This requires a critical reflection on those bad habits that we need to replace. It is always easier to create good habits from the beginning than to undo bad habits once they are established. Bad habits never disappear miraculously. You have to find a way to undo them. Once you find a way to accomplish this, the good habits can only be successfully established by continuous repetition. Any break in the routine, you will likely return to a less desirable habit, which may undo all the good effort that has been devoted to change. Habits of action are affected, but also deep-seated habits of thought are affected too. That is why we need to develop productive habits to replace the bad ones. Since we have learned bad habits, we have to find a way to unlearn them. Habits become entrenched over time because of their repeated performance. So in order to break them, we have to develop a new behavioral pattern. This will weaken the old habit. After doing this for a while, the new way becomes automatic. In order to be successful, one needs to have persistence and a step by step plan. You need to look at each habit with a critical eye and ask yourself "in what way will I benefit if I break this habit?"

Ask yourself if the bad habit will eventually hurt you if you keep doing it? This could refer to drinking alcohol, smoking, or even simply chewing your nails. Also, ask yourself if your habit is affecting others in a dangerous way. IN ORDER to make changes to your habits, you need to debate all the pros and cons of making such a change. This should include the worst possible consequences and the best possible benefits of breaking the habit. Then you have to decide whether or not you should continue those habits. This is a time where you need to be flexible. You have to want to change. You have to create some form of plan that will assist you if you really want to stop letting those bad habits enslave you. Write a list of all the bad habits that you need to stop and the reasons why you should stop doing them. Create a log, where you can write down everything that is happening in regards to the bad habit, such as how often it occurs, when did it start, and what caused it to start. What was going on when it started? Going through this self-analysis will help you monitor your habits and enable you to find a positive solution when it comes to replacing them.

Habits, good or bad, help make you who you are. Any effort you make to create a positive change will result in an improved quality of life. Free yourself from your bad habits, and a good life will follow! Nothing good in life is easy, and breaking habits can be hard, but breaking bad habits are well worth the effort, they can enrich your life, in some cases lengthen your life, and make your life far more enjoyable. If you're going to be a slave to anything, you might as well be a slave to making your life the best that it can be, right?

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