Here’s a thought I’d like to share
Habits that have been with us the longest generate the strongest habit energy.”
The other night, my Yoga Assisted Group Therapy group was discussing “habit energy” and how pulled toward old habits we can be. Recently, an old habit with lots of habit energy has re-emerged for me. For months now, I have been looking at my tendency to distract myself with “busyness” any time I feel psychologically uncomfortable – you know, that yucky, sticky sort of feeling that you can’t quite name but it makes you tighten up inside. I have actively held the intention to stay conscious of my feelings (especially that “discomfort”) and not use distractions to push them away. But in the past couple of weeks, since the end of the holidays and the start of the New Year, I have let that intention slip. I wasn’t even aware that I had let it go. It was only in discussing “habit energy” and intentions that I realized I had shifted back toward my old habits of distraction and busyness. At first, I felt disappointed and angry with myself because an old energy that I thought was gone was in my life again. My uncensored thoughts were: “You failed.” “How silly to think something had really changed!” “You should have known better.” “You’re just as stuck as you ever were. All these thoughts were punitive and fear based. The more I thought these thoughts, the meaner I became and the harder my heart felt. It was only in teaching the concept of being conscious of and compassionate toward the degree of habit energy that any old habit will undoubtedly have, that I began to soften around my own unconscious drifting back toward an unwanted pattern. Only then did I realize that my “discomfort” was morphing into more doing and “be” ing.Re-setting my intention to be conscious of my feelings (especially that yucky, subtle, psychological discomfort) and to be curious about what was going on inside of me, and giving up being punishing, mean, and angry about it was what allowed me to interrupt the downward spiral I had created. My spiral went something like this: I felt uncomfortable and got busy in order to distract myself from that feeling, got mad at myself about doing that, got mad about being mad, got even more distracted, and finally, throwing my hands in the air in defeat, I would engage in some form of busyness (i.e. eating, cleaning, writing, reading, cooking, etc.) so that I could distract myself from my mad/hard/mean thoughts and feelings. Pretty crazy stuff! Using unhealthy patterns to deal with the re-emergence of unhealthy energies is about as effective as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. So, if habit energy is so strong, does true change really happen? And if so, at what point can we begin to trust that the change is real? True change can and does happen. It’s not that we have to live in fear of falling back into our old ways, or that we must be the cruel dictator of our thoughts and behaviors. However, we do have to recognize the habit energy, hold a healthy respect for its strength and longevity, and stay aware and open to our thoughts and behaviors concerning that pattern or habit. That awareness is difficult to maintain when we get overwhelmed or our resources are depleted, when our lives are unbalanced for too long, or when we get caught up in the internal drama of our thoughts (that sometimes cruel, isolating, angry, sad voice in our heads). We are not “wrong” or bad when these inevitable components of this human journey present themselves – and they surely will. Rather it is these messy places that cause us to shift toward old habits and their habit energies. Getting harder on ourselves or meaner to ourselves won’t help and will in fact increase our adamancy with which we engage in that habit! We have to add curiosity and compassion not control.When you feel old energies creeping around, pause, breathe a few deep breaths and gently ask yourself “What is this about? and then pause again, take a few more breaths and listen for the first hints of an answer. The more you listen, the louder and braver your heart’s voice will become.
Originally Published January 19, 2010by