“Hi Kevan, Still not smoking and feeling less and less likely that I will again. Not too sure why it worked and trying to resist the temptation to analyse it too much. I think something unconscious is happening, really don’t feel as though I will smoke again.” (From a client wanting to stop smoking).
If ever you have struggled with trying to control or eliminate a bad habit such as nail biting, smoking, binge eating, overspending, gambling, drinking to excess, or indeed any other behaviour pattern that seems to have taken overtaken your life, then you will know how difficult it seems to kick it into touch. Sometimes it seems that the more effort is put into trying to end the habit, the more powerful it becomes, almost as if it is fighting back.
In such a situation it is useful to ask what the function of the habit might be. What does it do for you? Does it have any positive aspects and if so what are they?
There is always a reason for doing something. The reason for the habit might be to seek relief from stress, to feel part of a peer group, to seek after a thrill or maybe just relief from boredom. The behaviour pattern might temporarily fill a gap, but any satisfaction that it brings will be fleeting. Emotionally driven habits are like fools gold, they seem to offer riches, but turn out to be worthless. The empty feeling remains and no amount of indulging in the habit will take it away.
If you feel at the mercy of such a habit it is important not to be too hard on yourself. If the habit is not harming anyone, or robbing you of your time, money and self-esteem, then you may decide that you can live with it. If however there is likely to be a serious health consequence, or it threatens to damage your relationships or your livelihood, then it is probably time examine how best to get free of it.
If you have already decided that “enough is enough” and something needs to be done about it, then you are well on your way to freeing yourself of the habit. Ask yourself what basic needs the habit might be trying to meet and then look for other, less damaging ways to meet those needs. Think about what the negative consequences of continuing to be ruled by the habit might be, and then turn your mind to visualising the positive consequences when you are free of it.
If you want any help in gaining control over bad habits then a few sessions of Human givens therapy will be very beneficial.
Kevan Owen HG.Dip.P, MHGI, DHypPsych (UK).
Human Givens Therapist. Mobile: 07717 289373.
The Bell Surgery, 453 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 8AU.
Trinity House Practice, 150-152 Cumberland Street, Macclesfield, SK10 1BP.