Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Creatures of Habit

Most of us have heard the cliché before, that humans are creatures of habit. Like most cliché’s there is a degree of truth to that statement. As creatures of habit, most (if not all of us) unfortunately pick up bad habits along with our positive routines. Did you ever consider how this can play out with our emotions? It is quite possible that a lot of our negative emotions can have a habitual component. For example, did you ever experience an emotionally rough few days and when its over say to yourself, “Wow I really let my anger/stress/depression, get the best of me and I acted like a real Ogre for the past few days” Consider a few more examples for further self-examination:

‘Habitual Depression” – The point here is not to make light of clinical depression which often goes deeper than just thinking happy thoughts to get better. Still, many individuals are not clinically depressed but we still may be prone to getting into emotional ruts and long periods of just being a “downer”. Did you ever think about the possibility that you can get caught up in the “habit” of just being overly negative and pessimistic? Have you ever caught yourself getting stuck in an extended period where everything is hopeless and crappy even when it really isn’t as bad as you may think?

“Habitual Anger” – There are so many things in this world that can get you upset as the world is full of examples of injustice, unfairness, oppression, stress, rudeness, danger, or whatever else gets you riled up. The problem can be however, that sometimes we can get in the habit of getting ticked off by every little thing. Did you ever catch yourself getting caught in a rut where you make sure to notice and react to every little thing that gets on your nerves? Have you ever noticed yourself getting into a pattern of allowing yourself to get angrier about things than is necessary, perhaps even at times overreacting?

“Habitual Resentment” – I can use my kids as an example for this one. Sometimes I can catch my kids falling into a pattern of what I call “Fighting for Sport” – This involves them getting into a series of arguments with each other over stuff that really has no real basis for contention. This happens when they get on each other’s nerves from previous disagreements then instead of letting go, finding reasons to start up new meaningless squabbles with each other just because of sour feelings from the past. Do you ever catch yourself getting into a pattern stirring up trouble with others who may have hurt, annoyed or upset you earlier?

"Habitual ______ " - (Fill in the blank; for example Fear, Anxiety, Stress, Despair, Grief, Apathy, Irritability, Impatience etc.) – The list goes on. It can be extremely helpful and valuable to be able to use our powers of insight and introspection to catch ourselves when we let negative emotions catch on like bad habits. I know from experience as I too have had those moments of clarity after finding myself in a counterproductive patch of time where I recognized I was getting caught up in the ‘bad habit” of allowing negative emotions to get the best of me. It is a lot like waking up from a bad dream and realizing you can leave the negativity behind and move forward. It can simply be a matter of saying “OK, enough is enough I am going try to stop being ________ (Negative emotion) now!

If you are one of those people who have got it together so well mentally, emotionally, and spiritually that none of this ever happens to you then I say good for you! Keep up the good work! For the rest of us who still consider ourselves to be a work in progress there is still hope. The best thing out of all of this is that if we can get caught up in emotional bad habits, then by the same token we can practice getting into a pattern of emotional good habits. If you are a creature of habit then make it your goal instead to get in the habit of working on positive emotions. Strive to be habitually: happy, patient, relaxed, peaceful, forgiving, etc. 

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