You Don’t Actually Have a Habit

You don’t actually “have” a habit. 

There’s no stability there, so there’s nothing to have.

There may be consistency. That’s the definition of a habit—something that habitually, consistently arises.

But there is no stability. Your habit is a thought that arises within you. It is not yours. You don’t own it or have it and it doesn’t own or control you. It’s an inner experience that arises, comes to life within you along with its physical and emotional friends. Then it fades, passes, and a new thought shows up.

It has no fixed existence or life of its own. You can’t find it anywhere—in fact, sometimes it’s nowhere to be found.

This is true no matter what your habit is. Smoking, drinking, shopping, gambling, or habitually worrying, overthinking, or reacting in a particular way—they are all the same.

Binge eating was my 8-year habit. In 8 years, it was not always there. There were times when binge eating was nowhere on my radar—it didn’t exist in those moments.

There were also moments when it was there as a thought brought to life within me.

This is true for you too. There are moments when your habit is there as a thought, and moments when it is not. And none of it has anything to do with what you do. Thought arises, comes to life, changes. That’s life. It’s how our experience works. It’s not about you and it’s not yours to control, change or manage.  

All you have to do is see that this is the way it works.

I gave into my desire to binge eat so often because I didn’t understand this. I mistakenly thought I “had” some sort of stable habit living within me, so when I experienced the discomfort of that habit I thought I had to do something.

I showered my thoughts and feelings with attention and I tried to control them. I didn’t realize that you can’t control the natural flow of life. All of my efforts to control only made things worse.  

All I had to do was see that life was moving through me on its own and that it was safe—there was no active role for me to play. As I saw that, I felt more able to feel it. And as I felt able to feel it, I felt it without stuffing a bunch of food in my mouth to distract myself from it.

And then it changed.

Your misunderstanding is the only problem you have. I promise you that. I know your mind might be throwing a fit right now, jabbering on and on about how it’s more complicated than this. But this is the plain and simple truth.

You don’t “have” anything to manage or control. Your habits are nothing more than life moving though you and they will always keep on moving.

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