The Hidden Message Behind Our Bad Habits
Habits become patterns and when they do, they set deep grooves in our live. The longer we indulge in that pattern, the more difficult it is to change. We become identified with it and think we don’t know how to live without it.
And yet, we can.
I know, firsthand, that people, places and things I thought were impossible to live without have been easier to let go of than I thought. They can be dropped and replaced with space and openness to new things.
Habits are not really broken so much as we release our tight grip on them and allow them to fall away. One of the first steps is to see what they are giving us. What’s the payoff? What’s the benefit to holding onto them?
Awareness is the first step to healing. Observe the trigger—is it stress, anxiety, boredom, self-doubt, depression, despair, feeling unloved, having no meaning or purpose, etc. Once this trigger is seen, one can begin to look at healthy alternatives to addressing these triggers and getting our needs met.
Inside of every bad habit or addiction is a cry for something that we don’t know how to get.
We want love or attention or feeling as though we matter and when we don’t, we reach for something that helps us avoid feeling altogether. It's a device that numbs us from the discomforts of life and hides us from the truth of our choices.
People who are not fulfilled in their jobs often fall into addictive behavior because they don’t feel that they have a choice in how they’re spending their time, so that feel justified in propping themselves up with a bad behavior. This behavior is also a passive-aggressive way of saying, “fuck you” to life.
When we feel that no one is listening or no one cares, we numb ourselves to forget that feeling, even if we know that doing so will cost us in some way. Many people react to pain by doing something that is destructive. It is a rebellious act against that which we feel powerless to change. It is anger turned in on itself—a total victim stance in which we feel stuck or trapped and without a voice.
Over time, our rebellious behavior catches up with us, as the habit has become a pattern or addiction that now has a hold on us. We realize we need help in order to get out of the ditch we’re in. We don’t have the tools, the motivation or the strength to do it alone. We also feel bad because we know better than this, so we beat ourselves up for landing in the ditch in the first place.
People make their lives small when life seems futile and hopeless, when they’ve been traumatized in some way or disillusioned or heart-broken. Despair enshrouds them, most likely at an unconscious level and they do whatever it takes to avoid that feeling, to cover it up, smooth things over and pretend there’s nothing wrong. But take away their addictive props and the truth will emerge very quickly. The construct build on these tethers of comfort is as fragile as a house of cards that a strong wind could easily blow over, exposing the hidden pain at its source.
Our culture supports this type of self-deception. After all, it’s asking us to trade our precious time in exchange for money and the cost of that alone, sets us up for escapist types of behaviors. Keeping us isolated in separate boxes and cubicles, charging us huge amounts of money just for the basic necessities, pressuring us to fit in and conform to a bunch of laws and rules and protocols, expecting us to show up in specific ways in order to be considered normal all contribute to people’s desire to run and escape. Unfortunately, many use television to escape, which only further reinforces the values they’re running away from. There is safety in inaction and limited activity. It is less likely you will meet with the disapproval of your boss, neighbors, family and community if you simply keep your world small and don’t make any waves.
Inside, this soul-killing behavior begins to poison us at the core, until we either become sick, mentally unstable or decide that we’d rather do anything than betray our souls. Better to be a hermit and be free than a controlled, imprisoned slave. This is why so many people are attracted to art. It gives them a chance to enter into an imaginative world and create something that contributes to their own well-being and that of others.
Traditional lifestyles don’t support creative expression and in fact, are often threatened by it. People that work over forty hours per week and maintain a household have very little time to express themselves authentically, which frustrates them, but instead of turning to some form of art, they often choose to use their free time to escape and reduce the pain of selling their souls.
It seems that the greatest gift anyone could give another is freedom from this vicious cycle and all the negative habits that go along with it. To me the bad habits are symptoms of a sick society; they are external reactions to internal pain and dissatisfaction. People’s addictions tell you a lot about how they feel about our world and they are so upset that they’re willing to do whatever they can to relieve their pain even at the cost of their relationships and their health. That’s pretty intense malaise. Toxic emotions have a way of festering deep inside us, and unless they get released or expressed or cleansed in some way, they will turn on us and poison our mind, body, emotions and spirit. People die this way because they don’t know what else to do.
There is another way.