Martha Beck recently wrote about how to survive a breakup (You can read about it on her blog; “Heartbreak Academy: How to Make it Through”) and I thought, this could also apply to ‘breaking up" with bad habits! What she describes is exactly what I did when I quit smoking (gasp! I know!) many years ago.
How To Break Up With Your Bad Habit:
Step # 1: How Old Do You Feel?
When you think about quitting your bad habit – I mean really, go to that place in your mind and really imagine not doing that bad thing – how old do you feel? The feeling you are having is most
likely triggering some memory from your childhood around some need that didn’t get met or a trauma you suffered. There was a lot of drama in the household where I grew up.
The nicotine in cigarettes, I discovered at age 14, gave me a hit that triggered a relaxation response I badly needed to take things down a notch. I was tightly wound in my effort to
appear normal, and all together. When I gave up smoking, I learned to employ other relaxation methods, like running, conscious breathing and meditation. Without the smoke, I found running and breathing a lot easier! When your inner child hurt is triggered, it is best to listen to her. Take care of yourself like you would a child that is hurt. Rest, give comfort and be patient.
Step # 2: What Does My Bad Habit Help Me Believe About Myself?
Again, you wouldn’t be doing the ‘bad’ thing if you didn’t believe it was doing something for you. When you are out of control shopping what are you telling yourself? “I am as glamorous and beautiful as A Real Housewife without all that botox? ” When I smoked I really believed I was cool, sophisticated, mature. The recovery part of this is to maintain the belief without the habit.
So I adopted other behaviours that were cool – a leather jacket! I actually acted mature and grown up, until it became a habit (most of the time!) Be glamorous and beautiful in all of your actions, not just at the mall.
Step #3: What Does My Bad Habit Give Me Permission To Do?
Smoking for me, gave me permission to take a break. To stop.
I recently had a conversation with a young woman who said that shevstarted to go out with her co-worker smokers for their smoke breaks, eventhough she doesn’t smoke, because she realized the non-smokers never got a break! When you are indulging in your 4th glass of wine, ask yourself what you are giving yourself permission to do or not do? Are you saying what’s really on your mind only after glass of wine #3? What if you said what was on your mind in a non-inebriated way?
If your bad habit is giving you permission to behave badly, can you give yourself permission to
behave badly without the bad habit?
Our ‘bad’ habits are really helpful indicators trying to get our attention and point us toward our real selves. Our real selves that need just as much compassion, understanding and patience as any of our precious loved ones.