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Bad Habits (and tips for stopping)

Excerpt from my upcoming book, 

You're Already Hypnotized: A Guide to Waking Up.

"Holy Child of God, when will you learn that only holiness can content you and give you peace?"—A Course in Miracles

….The reason we don’t quit our bad habit even though we say we want to is because our subconscious thinks we’re better off with it. It’s called a negative payoff. There is always a negative payoff underlying any bad habit. Even though the habit may be destroying us at worst or annoying at best, subconsciously we think it’s serving us on some level. Otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it.

The bad habit is often the only way our subconscious mind believes it can get its deeper needs met. From what I’ve uncovered with clients, the biggest negative payoff is protection. The maladaptive behavior becomes a defense mechanism protecting us from what we fear: getting hurt, succeeding, failing, conflict, feeling our feelings or being held responsible.

It’s a good idea to get rid of the bad habit, but consciously taking it away or just stopping cold turkey doesn’t cure deeper subconscious beliefs. We might stop that particular behavior, but we start another one, or pick it up again later. Our subconscious believes the habit gives us something of value, and though we easily let go of what we no longer need or want, we cling to what we value, even though it’s hurting us.

Giving up an unwanted habit then requires a change of value, which is nothing more than a change in perception about what the habit is for. If a smoker, for instance, thinks cigarettes are her best friend, she’s not going to give them up. But if, through hypnosis, I take away that value by changing her subconscious mind, then what she gives up is valueless and therefore easier to relinquish.

What a smoker thinks she gets from smoking takes precedence over the harmful effects. All smokers know it’s bad for them. Respiratory infections, emphysema, lung cancer, heart attacks, wrinkles and impotence don’t faze them because smokers value smoking, and their cars, more than their body. Most smokers hold their cigarette outside of their car window while driving. It doesn’t make sense. They fear the smoke dirtying their interior and the smell lingering on their dashboard, yet they inhale it into their lungs. It takes some reorganizing of their subconscious for them to see the habit from a right-minded perspective. My job is to convince them that smoking offers only an illusion of value. In and of itself, a cigarette has no value. Our mind assigns meaning to things outside of ourselves, and it’s that meaning that keeps us stuck, not the behavior.....

All of the smokers I’ve worked with say smoking relaxes them, but that's a lie they've come to believe. They are not questioning the reality of the problem. Smoking, like any unwanted habit, does not provide true relaxation. On the contrary, cigarettes cause agitation in the body through the withdrawal of toxic chemicals and nicotine. The perceived relaxation from a drag on a cigarette is simply the rush of nicotine back into the system. Is a heroin addict truly relaxing with each hit? He might think he is, and it feels that way for a moment due to the rise of dopamine in his brain (the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure), but the truth is, he’s simply feeding the craving that caused his anxiety.

And this is true with any bad habit. They

feed

anxiety. They do not allay anxiety. Healing comes from a different part of you. Bad habits and anxiety go hand in hand. When you are deeply relaxed, like in a hypnotic state or asleep, the need to pull out your hair or drink or smoke disappears. Your body is in the parasympathetic relaxation mode, not the sympathetic fight or flight response that generates cravings....  

We all know that we use things and behaviors and other people to fill a void. We also know this void is basically a lack of love. Typically, most psychologists and hypnotherapists trace the void back to childhood. But this void is ultimately not about what our parents didn’t give us, though we can begin to heal it there. The void is deeper than that. It's an absence of God, or truth, love, whatever you want to call that connection to your highest self. That’s why bad habits never bring lasting satisfaction. The ego’s edict is “seek and do not find.” We are seeking a physical solution to an essentially psycho-spiritual neurosis.

When you decided long ago that you would live a life separate from God, you became unhappy. But you didn’t know why, so you turned to the ego for a solution. That was the only mistake you have ever made, and it’s the only one you keep making. The ego told you to seek that fulfillment though your body and in the world. So you did. And you’re still searching: in a person, a candy bar, a whiskey bottle, pot or lip gloss. But the ego will never tell you that your real addiction is to suffering. Your addiction is to your own ego thought system. The cause of pain is the choice to choose against God, because it is a choice against yourself.

If you want to permanently change your behavior, you must go back to your mind and relinquish the value you have placed on the habit by listening to a different teacher. Ask God to use your bad habit for His holy purposes. Anything the ego makes can be reinterpreted by God to bring you Home. Today you are given the opportunity to live your life differently. The past is over. Every attempt at healing, no matter how little, has great strength behind it. God will use the situation, just as it is, to bless your life, rather than as your ego has been using it, to hurt you....

Tips

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Call upon a higher source.

Welcome God, your higher self, Jesus, Buddha, whoever or whatever, into your mind or to sit down beside when and if you indulge in your bad habit, or if you simply feel the urge. It can be as simple as “I invite God into my relationship with alcohol.” You can’t be in the mind of God and in your ego at the same time, and bad habits are ego. By remembering your right-mind, you naturally relinquish fear and allow a wiser perception to guide you. Keep inviting a higher source into your mind to help you see things differently.

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Rubber band trick.

Habits are often unconscious and habituated responses to stress stimuli. Healing then requires being conscious and aware. Put a rubber band on your wrist and snap it each time you are tempted by the unwanted habit. This helps “snap” you out of unconscious behavior. Use this, or something similar, to distract yourself with for thirty days, which is the length of time it takes to replace an old habit with a new one.

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Stop signs.

Stop signs are everywhere so we might as well use them for purposes other than stopping our cars. How about stopping unwanted behavior or thought patterns? Stop signs can be great reminders to change. Each time you see a stop sign, see it as

Switch To Opposite Perception

(STOP) and simply say, “I

can

stop __________________.” (Insert bad habit.)

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Use an alternate activity.

 If you are addicted to internet gambling, for instance, put

A Course in Miracles

 by your computer and when you have an urge to go online to gamble, open the book and read a section. Or have the daily reprogramming statements associated with this chapter with you at all times so you can distract your mind and change your perception. This will eventually hardwire your brain for a different outcome to the cravings. I heard about a man who was attempting to heal his internet porn addiction. Every time he went online with a craving to search porn, he instead searched for ways to heal his addiction. 

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Delay.

Challenge yourself not to partake in the behavior for as long as you can. Delay it for a few minutes, then work up to an hour, and then perhaps a couple of hours. Keep pushing yourself to delay for longer periods of time.

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Label your feelings.

Notice what you are feeling when you have the desire to cave to your bad habit. There is always a feeling associated with it. Is it loneliness? Boredom? Frustration? Address the feeling by doing something to satisfy it—call a friend, take a walk, or meditate.

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Meditate.

This is probably the fastest, most effective way to heal your mind. Research indicates the effectiveness of meditation in overcoming addiction. It’s been shown that meditation trumps behavior strategies in healing addictive thoughts. If you don’t know how to meditate, not to worry, use the self-hypnosis induction in this book to induce a meditative state. Make meditation a part of your daily routine.

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Mark your calendar.

Pick a day that feels like the right day to stop your bad habit and mark it boldly on your calendar. It could be today or tomorrow or in two weeks, or maybe it has already passed. This is a very important day, as significant as an anniversary or a birthday. If it’s appropriate, tell your family and friends so that you are held accountable.

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Count the days.

Keep track of how many days you have gone without indulging, and be proud of yourself for each day. When you’ve reached a week, or a month, reward yourself. Take it day by day, but make thirty days your first goal. Then another thirty days, and so forth.

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Forgive yourself when you relapse.

Relapse is often a part of recovery. I have many clients who have healed their addictions and bad habits, and most of them relapsed at some point in the beginning. We learn through contrast. Relapse does not have to be a hindrance to healing, in fact, it can be a part of the recovery process. I often liken relapse to bad break-up sex. Sometimes we have to go back to what’s familiar in order to realize that we don’t want it. We trick ourselves into believing that our old ways will fulfill us as they once did, but we only end up feeling worse. We are held accountable to what we know. If we know we should be making better choices, and we don’t, we will always pay a price. The blessing in relapse, however, is that it can solidify our commitment to staying on the right path.

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Avoid people or situations who have the same bad habit or trigger your cravings.

 While in the process of recovery, you are not strong. However, you are in the process of learning that you have strength within you. This is a fragile time of rebuilding your self-esteem, so be kind and gentle with yourself. Protect yourself vigilantly against any and all trigger responses to your bad habit. It’s not unusual for those stuck in their bad habits and unhealthy patterns to attempt to sabotage our healing because it reminds of what they are neglecting within themselves. Misery loves company. Keep the company of healthy individuals who are walking the high road.

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Clean your environment.

Get rid of anything and everything that reminds you of the addiction or contributes to it. If you are a smoker, for instance, have your car detailed, and toss all cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters. Delete sites on your computer. Buy a sage smudge stick and cleanse the energy in your home. Create a safe and healthy environment.

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Talk to someone

. Tell someone about your addiction, a trusted friend or loved one, a family member, counselor, minister, or support group or even a stranger you meet online in a recovery program. Secrets and isolation hurt us; joining heals us.

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Do the exercises for this chapter

. As mentioned, it takes thirty days for a new habit to replace an old habit, which is why each chapter contains thirty daily reprogramming statements. Using these daily will make the healing process much easier. The only reason people experience adverse withdrawal symptoms is because they have not changed their subconscious mind. Without changing your core thoughts, you will fail. And you were not meant to fail. You were meant for greatness.

Daily Reprogramming Statements for Bad Habits

(Repeat each statement for throughout the day aloud or silently then move on to the next statement the following day. Do this for thirty days.)

 I am ready to change.

I can stop ____________________ (drinking, smoking, biting my nails).

__________________ has no value.

__________________ will never improve my life.

I have made the final decision to stop ___________________.

__________________ doesn’t make me happy.

I don’t enjoy _____________________.

___________________ may have served me in the past, but it no longer serves me today.

I replace ___________________ with self-respect.

As I relax more and more, I no longer need _____________________.

I forgive myself for _______________________.

I will not fool myself into thinking that _____________________ fulfills me.

Let peace replace _____________________.

I no longer use ______________________ to mask my problems.

I express myself instead of repressing myself with ___________________.

___________________ does not make me smarter.

The longer I abstain, the easier it is.

I am patient with myself as I let go of _____________________.

I do not have to ______________________ when I am upset or lonely.

I no longer weaken myself by _______________________.

 ____________________ is self-punishment, and I don’t need to punish myself anymore.

I am stronger than my urge to _______________________.

 _____________________ is ego gratification, and I am not my ego.

I enjoy challenging myself to be better.

I develop new habits that empower me.

When I stop _____________________, I make room for miracles.

I stubbornly refuse to _________________________.

Under no circumstances do I ever _______________________.

I do not envy people who _______________________.

My craving for _____________________ is vanishing.

I am happy to be alive.