Smoking, overeating, nail biting …… The list could go on and on. Someone told me yesterday they had read that the biggest habit people want to quit in this country is crisp eating. I’m not against people smoking or overeating or even nail biting. However, my concern is that many people want to quit habits when they feel they’ve outgrown them, but don’t know where to turn for help or they find help which doesn’t really solve the issue. Over identification with a habit can also trick the individual into believing that they are their habit, rather than understanding that it is only a behaviour.
There are other habits which are unnoticeable to others but which can feel like a real curse to those inflicted. These are habits of thought processes. Some clients I have seen may be low in confidence, low in self esteem, have troubled uncontrolled thoughts or be fixated on certain ideas which don’t serve them well in daily life. These are all habits which, like the physical habits, developed over time.
All of these habits have things in common:
1. They developed and continue to exist by repeated actions or thoughts.
2. We were not born with them, even if geneticists might argue that we have a predisposition to developing them.
3. The unconscious mind has often mistakenly learnt that the behaviours or thoughts are of value.
4. Habits can also develop by triggering the brain’s “reward” centres, which momentarily give us pleasure such as with an addiction or overeating.
The good news is that we are not only creatures of habit, we are creatures of learning, and we can learn to break habits!
There are many techniques that have been developed to help in breaking the cycle of habitual behaviours or thought processes. One of these which is helpful for use in hypnotic trance is mental rehearsal. In a trance state the unconscious mind is more available to access, and therefore more open to change. I encourage clients to imagine, in hypnosis, going through a day without smoking, for example. Whilst remaining relaxed and open to suggestions and images, the desired changes can appear real to the unconscious mind and on leaving the trance the rehearsal can almost feel like a memory rather than a fantasy. With this simple process people feel much closer to their desired goal than their pre-trance state.
This type of relearning or unlearning can feel effortless and far removed from forcing ourselves out of a behaviour. The power of our imagination and it’s effect on our body and mind should not be underestimated. In fact researchers say that if you imagine eating a meal before you actually eat, you are likely to eat less.