Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It’s all about Habits.

A few weeks ago, a theory came me about the human mind. I wanted to blog about this immediately, but decided to save it for the Insecure Writer Support Group sponsored by Alex Cavanaugh and his band of blogging ninjas. 

Then I realized I accidently posted this one day early, so what the hell, I'll just leave it for tomorrow too.


Humans are creatures of habit more than I ever realized. And why didn’t I realize? This is really so simple. 

My Dad has had depression and anxiety problems for years and while some of the time there was a reason often times there was no logical reason for the depression. I thought for years, why? Why is he like this? He is comfortably retired and other than the mental issues he’s in great shape for a guy in his mid-seventies. When you ask him for the reason for his depression, he doesn’t know and he is on medication for it. I have gone round and round trying to help him. Also psychiatrists and therapists have not been able to help him either. The medication doesn’t cure it, but instead dulls it and at this point he just gets by in life. 

Recently to my surprise I found myself worrying about a problem that was resolved. My worry switched to “but is this good enough?” I found it frustrating that how at first I thought my worry was over and it really wasn’t. Then the light bulb went on. I saw a connection to what I was doing and to the way my Dad is. We don’t live in a perfect world and you can always find something to worry about. If you worry for so long over something, it can become a habit. So I realized this and dismissed my worry. Now, finally after years, I understand what happened to my Dad. He had worries and negative thoughts over things that were real at one time, but now he is stuck in those thought patterns. Those emotions became a habit.

One time a doctor told him “Your mind is trying to destroy you.” I thought that was a horrible thing for any doctor to tell a patient because my Dad obsessed over that one. But the thing about this is the doctor said this with no insight. 

By no fault of our own, people find themselves in stressful situations.Then if the stress goes on long enough, but is eventually resolved, instead of finding relief, people struggle with adapting. Yes, your own mind can destroy you if you if it is programmed to do so, and if you don’t realize what is happening.  

Then other things came to me about how the human mind is so prone to habits. We have all kinds of addictions. Hard addictions, like drugs, alcohol and food. Soft addictions are those that aren’t harmless instantly – like online or video games.

An example that came to me is soldiers who have experienced combat. When at last they come home, they expect to find peace. Instead many find themselves unable to adapt and wanting to go back even if it means risking their lives. Even post traumatic stress disorder is an example of habit. The danger is gone, yet the mind continues to replay it, all because it has become an ingrained habit. It’s amazing how addictive the human mind is when you think about it.

The mind can even make physical pain a habit. For example, a wounded leg that will never heal is amputated. The patient continues to feel phantom pain from it. The leg still feels like it’s still there even when it’s not. The pain was there so long it became a habit. The mind recreates the pain. This is why a person can still feel anxiety and depression even when the reasons are removed. We can become addicted to our own fears. 

I think the whole key is recognizing when we think fearfully and make a conscious effort to turn it around. This is probably why some people use affirmations, which I always thought were a bit silly. “I’m great, I’m wonderful….I am amazing!” Yeah, right. But, I think affirmations could be the most useful when used at the times when you catch yourself having the negative thoughts. Then have your positive thoughts ready to replace them. Think of the good things in your life and all the good that you do. I find affirmations more believable if I come up with details about things I do well or about how I can attain certain goals, rather than just "I'm a great person." Then perhaps one can retrain their mind with positive thoughts.

It sounds so simple, but all addictions are hard to break. As for me, I grew up with a father who was negative and depressed from most of my early memories. If it wasn't for my mother, I hate to think of how I may have turned out. So to some extent I do have to battle with negative thoughts.  


And lastly you will find that even when you achieve great success there will be people who will (for whatever reason) have a problem wiht you. Picture this...your book is published, after years and years of hard work (critiquing, polishing, rethinking every word) you're proud of your accomplishment and inevitably someone is going to say your books sucks because it just wasn't for them. The best thing you can do is not even read those negative reviews. The more time you give to something negative, the more power you give it. So cut down the weeds, rather than fertilize them.




Good luck and best wishes to everyone in 2012.

14 comments:

Julia Hones said...

Excellent post! I have been thinking about this too, Cindy. I have decided to let go of anger and resentment a while ago and this attitude has made a huge difference in my life. Many people I know get upset and angry easily and it is a pattern they are attached to. However, once we let go of those negative emotions we can choose to feel love and compassion as opposed to anger. We can choose our own attitude and thoughts. It's like an exercise and we feel the inner peace that we need to search for new ideas and solutions.

Michael Offutt, Visitor from the Future said...

Wow...great post Cindy. Yes our minds are definitely behind much of the woes we experience in life. I try not to be bitter or to give into jealousy...I'm not immune, trust me. I get jealous of what my coworkers have especially. The proximity to it makes me feel that I should be entitled to the same kind of happiness. But it shall never be. I think in the end, truth and acceptance are key to finding peace.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You should've been a psychiatrist!
It is about replacing negative with positive. Like a switch in our head. I used to worry more when I was younger, but now I've learned to let things go. I've found that place of peace. For the most part...

Cindy said...

Julia, I've heard it said that happiness is a choice.

Mike, I know what you mean. Nobody is immune to those things.

Alex, Thanks, if only I would have found my calling earlier in life..lol.

Botanist said...

I think you hit a great insight with making a conscious effort to turn negative thinking around.

Affirmations of the vague "I'm wonderful" variety I think are rather trite and meaningless. But I do believe there's great value in more specific and credible affirmations, things that you can visualise to the point where you can feel what it's like. They have a powerful way of becoming self-fulfilling because you will be motivated to make them so.

CherylAnne Ham said...

Right on, Cindy. As a worrier myself, I know too well where that thinking leads. A habit I have is stressing over things that are completely out of my control, though I believe that we can turn bad habits into something more positive by consciously changing our perspective. Changing my thought process wasn't as hard as I thought once I recognized that change was needed. The worries still creep up on me but I'm learning to let go more and more every day. basically creating better habits. And I definitely agree, focusing on the negative only perpetuates more of the same. It may sound corny but I think that thinking and acting in a positive manner brings positivity to us. It a cycle we create for ourselves.

K.D.Storm said...

This is a great post. It opened my eyes to a lot of issues I have due to being a creature of habit. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Tonja said...

Wonderful post. I agree it's good to make a habit of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. At a very low point in my life a friend told me "you are strong," a thought I had never had about myself before then. Those three words - I am strong - carry me through everything.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Great post - it's easy to slip into negative or obessive thinking without realising. I've never considered it before.

Miranda Hardy said...

Very insightful post. I'd like not to look at the future reviews I get, because I know not everyone will like my story and some people do tend to be negative in nature. I'm happy to be positive and will try to leave the negative behind. Your dad sounds a lot like my mom.

MISH said...

Insightful post!
You 'hit the nail on the head'...
When I was much younger, I was a chronic "worrier". I've since learned that 90% of the things you worry about, never happen anyway...
so it just becomes a bad habit... a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

Jay Noel said...

This is such a deep post.

I did my own research on how the brain works, and I learned quite a bit about my own issues. Apparently, I have an overactive cingulate gyrus. My brain just keeps running and running. But knowing what is going on up there in the brain helps me deal with how I'm built.

Rusty Webb said...

I love coming up with ideas about how the mind works and the reasons behind human behaviors. But yours is great because yours actually sounds plausible. Depression can ruin people's lives, I'm glad you father has fought it.

Pk Hrezo said...

Cindy you hit on some poignant points here. (i tweeted it.) I also grew up with a mom who suffered from depression and severe negativity, but luckily a dad who was super laid back. I truly believe the brain is such a powerful thing, we use so very little of it, and what we do is so easily misused by those thought patterns you speak of.
It's not difficult at all to convince ourselves of something to the point it exists or we become something else. I've always held on to the belief that letting go is the single most important thing a person can learn to do. Until we're able to let go, we are owned by those things and thoughts that hold onto us.
It's so simple, yet so complicated at the same time.
BTW I love your blog theme. :)