The real solution to any bad habit

Question asked on Quora today:  What is the psychological phenomenon that prevents people from ridding themselves of bad habits?

Reply from Gus Griffin:  Excellent question. The basic thing which makes habits tenacious is compulsive avoidance.

It appears that we are “stuck in” repeating some behavior—that our fixation is on the behaviour being repeated—and certainly that is the obvious consequence of a bad habit. But the actual cause of the bad behaviour being repeated is that we are compulsively avoiding some other behaviour.

For instance, a person plagued by some phobia—let’s say a fear of flying—is really compulsively refusing to relax and accept the experience. Most people, when subjected to some activity that makes them nervous, but which they have to go through anyway, deliberately decide to let it happen. They choose to accept it and see how it goes. (And if nothing goes wrong, they get used to accepting it and eventually the nerves go away.)

But the phobic person continues to freak out because their mind continues to avoid accepting the situation—it jacks up and refuses to just “go with the flow”. That’s the real mechanism that is holding the habit in place.

So trying to “get rid” of a bad habit doesn’t work. You can work to sort of control it or cage it, but the pressure of the habit usually finds some way of being manifested, even if it is just in elevating your stress levels. Thus addicts following the 12 Steps have to keep on affirming that they are addicts to make sure they never let their “habit” (addiction) escape its bounds again.

In fact, there is nothing to “fix”, simply a better, more functional behaviour that needs to be embraced. Every bad habit is really the dark side of a dichotomy: find the related light side and embrace it (cease avoiding it) and the bad habit disappears—never to return. We do this every day for people with Instinx Performance Coaching.

Btw, 99% of the psychologists and psychiatrists I have come across have no inkling of this. They continue to try to drown mental disorders with drugs or a search for the “true source” (in the person’s past) of the negative symptoms. Sometimes they get lucky when their questioning causes the patient to look at something he or she has been avoiding looking at—thus reducing the intensity of the avoidance which is fueling the disorder—but mostly they only succeed in making people more introverted and dopey.

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Posted August 29, 2019 at 10:51 am by Gus Griffin · Permalink
In: Misc