There’s something quite intuitive about the fact that the more attention we pay something the more a part of our experience it becomes.
Shower your plants, children, hobbies, or relationships with attention and they not only thrive, they become a bigger part of your life.
Stare at–or even just think about–that cut on your leg and suddenly you feel the pain. It’s been there as long as it’s been there, but it becomes real for you when you look. Your attention brings it to life.
So, it’s ironic that we also tend to stare at and focus on our unwanted habits in the name of making them better. We track them. We monitor how we’re doing. We hone in on “I did it again”, or “three days habit-free!”
It looks like the unwanted habit—the part of it that we see–is the problem. If you shop, smoke, or gamble, shopping, smoking, or gambling is the thing affecting your life. Those are the specific behaviors that are wrecking your finances, relationships, and health. They are clearly the problem, so they are clearly the thing to focus on and change.
Except they aren’t.
They are actually the solution.
The “problem” (which the quotes indicate is not actually a problem), is that we aren’t feeling like ourselves. We’re feeling off base and in our cloudy-minded state, our habit appears to take the edge off our discomfort.
Our mind instantly suggests (sometimes demands) your habit as a solution. Feeling something you’d rather not? Eat this! It’ll take your mind off of your problems (and it does, for a minute). Feeling weighed down by urges to do your habit? Do that habit! That will make those urges go away (and it does, temporarily).
Our habits get us a tiny bit closer to home. Habits are solutions to the “problem” of not feeling well.
Not being at home is not actually a problem at all because we’re always moving in and out of feelings states. Our minds are always filling up a bit and then quieting down a bit, no different than waves on the ocean crash more or less forcefully on the shore.
When your high emotions calm down, your need for your habit will too. There is nothing to fix, there is only this to understand.
There is a great irony in the work I do with people who want to be rid of habits and addictions. The more we talk about the habit, how it shows up, what it all means… the more of a problem it tends to look like.
As we shift away from that focus on the specifics of the habit and look more to the nature of our experience, how the habit operates as a solution, how our human experience flows through us…the less a problem the habit appears to be and the less caught up in it we feel.
Of course we talk about the habit to some extent, but we don’t stop there. We don’t problem-solve or trouble-shoot the habit itself because the habit isn’t the problem.
If we trouble-shoot anything, it’s our misunderstanding about life. Understanding how this being human thing truly works is where freedom lies.