Bad habits are usually a thwarted attempt of our wanting approval (affection), control, or safety (security) from others. Probably more often than not, bad habits are a means of wanting control or wanting to be separate. This wanting is our desire or aspiration that something or someone will alleviate the problem we are facing or avoiding. Many times, people engage in bad habits simply because they are hoping to project a more confident image (as in the case with peer pressure or sibling rivalry). We all desperately want for others to approve of us. We think someone or something can give us what we so long to achieve. And what it is that we are hoping to achieve or seeking is a feeling of being safe and being loved. Because we never learned where real love comes from, it never occurred to us that we can give ourselves love and approval directly. Because of our lusting for approval, control or wanting to be safe, or separate, when others disappointed us and failed to respond to us in the way(s) we hoped, we began the cycle of blaming them for their failure to give us approval, control or safety. We further blamed ourselves in thinking there is something wrong with us because we didn’t get what we hoped to achieve.
Our feelings of anger, guilt, and pride are an unwelcome realty of seeking approval, control or wanting to be safe and hoping to get these things from others. Instead of feeling approved of, we felt frustrated. So we tried harder to impress others by continuing to act out in inappropriate ways. When this persistence didn’t work, we then rewarded ourselves with the habit(s) of choice. The next level of this cycle involves more disapproval because we still didn’t get what we wanted which is love, approval, control or safety. Our disapproval and disappointment often causes us to move further into frustration. It is here that we become stuck in a loop. At this point, we spend enormous amounts of time and energy, efforting, and trying to figure it out what’s wrong and what we should do next. Without realizing this entire process could have been avoided if we just understood where real loves comes from. Our being on automatic is the knee-jerk reaction that is sustaining our bad habits. Being on automatic includes our continuing to smoke, to overeat, extended gaming or surfing of the web, perhaps swearing, drinking, overspending, etc. We must see that we are the ones perpetuating our bad habits simply because we choose to avoid looking at their root cause. Habits are neither good nor bad. And yet, the habits will continue to run us as long as we choose to avoid taking responsibility for their presence. Larry Crane often uses the phrase, “How we do anything, is how we do everything?!” This translates to Lester Levenson’s point that, “Whatever we are resisting –will persist!”
In order for us to let go of a habit requires understanding that our using things or manipulating people isn’t giving us what we want. Breaking bad habits has to come from a willingness of taking responsibility for the habit(s) and the underlying source of the habit. Realistically on some level you may agree that food, smoking, alcohol etc. aren’t capable of resolving any issues that you are trying to work out. If we want approval, we have to comprehend that we are the true source of approval. Approval ONLY comes from within. Whenever we are protecting ourselves with fear such as resorting to food, cigarettes, or some other means, we are depending on something external to us to give us safety (security) or approval. This rationale simply isn’t realistic in getting what we want. If you will take a moment and notice as to how you feel after overeating or smoking, you may notice that your inner self is trying to reveal to you that you really don’t like how you feel.
Overcoming bad habits is truly possible, if we are sincere in working towards letting go of the underlying aversion associated with each habit. We all have both an attachment and an aversion to habits that we are holding onto. On the attachment side, because we believe in some way that the exterior habit will offer us relief, so therefore we are inclined to indulge again and again. And perhaps there is a temporary lift from eating, smoking, etc. This lift is an illusion. After indulging in our perceived bad habit of choice, we immediately or shortly thereafter, we may wish that we had skipped overeating, avoided having the cigarette or drink, or opted to turn the TV off. Our dissatisfaction after indulging is showing us how our aversion to the habit is running in the background. The aversion is often very subtle. We actually may dismiss seeing or noticing the aversion or our feelings in relation to our bad habits, because once the aversion shows itself, we immediately begin beating ourselves up for lacking control. These cycles will continue to repeat themselves endlessly unless we decide to take confront our underlying feelings.
By being attached to something is choosing to protect ourselves with fear. When we are attached to anything, it is because we believe we need the thing or person in some way to be safe or to have them give us approval. When we are relying on something external to us (such as a thing or person) to provide safety or approval, we often feel out of control because we view our dependency as an entrapment. If you are excusing a habit(s), notice the fear beneath the excuse. If you truly wish to let go of a bad habit, please begin to see the habit from both sides and also notice what is the benefit or the cost associated with holding onto this habit. The choice is yours.