Habits. We all have them.
They can be useful, harmful or anything in between. We don’t know how they appear; they just do.
They don’t just have to be physical habits either.
For instance, I tend to bounce my knee repeatedly when sitting (not very) still.
“MAX, STOP!” is the accompanying bellow from my mother.
I’d say that is relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things, although it seems to annoy the hell out of her (sorry mum).
Recently, however, I’ve noticed that traits can run deep. They make up your characteristics and as such, are a fundamental aspect of your relationships.
Let’s uncover why.
* * *
We Get Too Comfortable Within Ourselves
Habitual personality traits are embedded so deeply within our psyche that we don’t even realize.
In fact, bad habits tend to be remnants of our attachments to our past selves. Trauma in all walks of life leaks into your present self and bursts out without you even knowing it — until it’s too late.
Relatively early on in my life, I had to learn the value of independence. Consequently, I’d say I’m quite stubborn.
My inflexibility to change to new circumstances has proven to be a problem in the past. For instance, parents moving on with other partners takes a bit of getting used to. I’m sure some of you reading this will agree.
As a result, I have my view on things, so become blinded to what others think. So, I have been somewhat insensitive to people I love in the past.
(A bit of a dick, if I’m honest).
It is a rather eyebrow-raising moment when you come to terms with your bad habit.
Of course, you must be firm in your self-confidence. Otherwise, you’ll be wilting as quickly as a bowl of spinach every time life throws a dash of adversity your way. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a bit more flexible now and then.
Relationships grow. Make sure you grow with them.
* * *
Your (Bad) Habits are Disguised as Your Defence Mechanism
Habits typically evolve as a response to times of stress and anxiety.
Far too often, I catch myself grinding my teeth when I’m anxious, stressed or generally unhappy. But that’s basic. I’m talking about the deeper stuff.
Repression is a classic habit, and one I have exhibited far too often. At times, that has led to distancing myself from my family and too many “are you okay?” questions.
I didn’t like talking about my parent’s divorce. While that helped me in the short term, fractions arise in the long-term. Things have healed now, but it took much longer than I would have liked.
In reality, it’s not helping me or anyone else.
You dive back into your defence mechanisms to avoid confrontation and suppress negative experiences. Short term gain, long term loss.
Identify the habit that creeps up in times of anxiety. Catch yourself doing it and make a conscious effort to change it.
A 2019 study demonstrates the damage such habits can have on a person:
‘Difficulties in managing emotions subject health and wellbeing into gross negligence. As a result, the following are more likely to be exhibited:
- a history of substance abuse
- poor nutrition
- disordered eating
- lack of exercise
- abnormal sleep patterns
- poor compliance with medical interventions
- behaviours that are harmful to oneself.’
It is apparent then that regressing into these habits is bound to affect your relationships. Sure, it will be mostly irrelevant, but the characteristics will seep through and come to the fore eventually. Don’t notice it before it’s too late.
More often than not, a loved one will point this out to you. Normally, I would get defensive and deny their accusations. How could I possibly be wrong! Recently, however, I’ve learned the value of being receptive. It’s made my relationship all the better for it.
Listening is a key ingredient in a successful relationship.
The study acknowledges that feelings and emotions are not responsible for health disorders and sicknesses.
‘Reliance on self-defence against the expression of emotions and feelings that creates the tension required for the disease to thrive.’
Ditch those bad habits; it could go a long way.
* * *
Don’t Completely Ignore Your Instincts
Let me get something straight.
I am not saying you need to revamp your personality completely. Not ALL of your habits are bad. Self-preservation is our most primal instinct.
For example, I choose not to get overly emotionally invested in some situations. While it may rub off as detachment, it protects me from getting hurt from time to time or getting involved in things I don’t care for.
But I am aware of this.
Bad habits can be detrimental to your relationships as they are underlying. You don’t know they are there until they’ve exploded in your face.
You may feel like you’re right during an argument. But should you have thrown in that comment?
No. The answer is always no.
* * *
Fixing Bad Habits Will Make You More Receptive to Loved Ones
Honestly, I thought I didn’t have any bad habits. It was only until recently it was inadvertently pointed out to me.
Yes, I will try and stop grinding my teeth. But that’s not what I mean.
Habits cause neurons to link up in your brain. Realizing that link opened up a different way of thinking.
I was telling my sister she needs to get over some boy. Plain and simple; job done.
She gets upset, and I am sat there, the physical embodiment of a question mark — a fool.
It’s a slap in the face.
Now, I ask how she’s coping. Maybe offer some helpful advice. Not that steaming pile of bluntness I mentioned earlier.
What you can do:
Think back to a time you caused someone close to you to get upset. Ask yourself some of these questions:
- What did you say to cause that?
- How did it get to that point?
- What was your immediate response?
It’s all well and good saying sorry, but actions do speak louder than words.
I’ve noticed that, but I am no angel.
I do know this: love of all kind is about growth.
So come on, dig deep and make the effort you didn’t know you needed to.
It’s not too late.
Previously published on Medium.com.
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