As creatures of habit, most of us enjoy patterns and routines. We especially love when things go RIGHT because we knew what to expect, we planned, or it happened out of habit and was a simple reaction. Now, all of these things are fine, habit formation can be a good thing, but what about when the habits we’ve formed actually cause us harm?
This next sentence may sound familiar to you. Have you found yourself repeating the same old stuff in intimate relationships that keeps you from forming a safe and secure connection? Does it seem that the relationship starts to crumble at 2, 6, maybe 8 months!? Meaning, are the arguments the same no matter who you’re with, is the anger toward the same issues, and so on. If this is the case, then some bad habits have formed.
These bad habits (clinically called maladaptive behaviors) were once actually healthy. Believe it or not, when we learn a habit in early childhood/adolescents, it’s for protection. However as time goes on (and we don’t need that protective behavior anymore) it’s supposed to go away — when it doesn’t is when our problems begin.
An example: Charlie grew up in a chaotic home with his mother and father constantly arguing. Although there was no physical abuse, Charlie felt that he could never be safe. He would attempt to calm his parents or intervene, but was only shut down and told to “get to his room for timeout”. After a few years of this, Charlie learned that to not get in trouble, he must hide his emotions and not intervene when things are wrong. Fast forward to the Adult Charlie — who now has problems forming and maintaining intimate relationships. He avoids conflict, won’t bring up important emotional issues, lacks assertiveness, and feels inadequate in intimate relationships.
Make sense? Our childhood, adolescents, and sometimes early adulthood can greatly impact the version of us now, because it FEELS RIGHT! There are deeply ingrained patterns of behavior that were once for survival, but now only cause problems.
Here is the good part — they can be corrected! Depending on the pattern, how deeply entrenched it is, or how often it comes out will determine the specific course of action. Often therapy is needed to help generate awareness, developing clinical techniques for correction, and building confidence. If the pattern isn’t too ingrained, then sometimes the individual can recognize it on their own and make the change.
If your relationships are always “redemptive” (meaning you say “this time I will do it better, not do what I’ve done the past times) then it may be time to seek a competent counselor and get back to leading a fulfilling life. There are a lot of treatments in the field of counseling that can help with this — and it requires motivation and a willingness to change, that’s it!
The counselors at WCC are here to help and ready to get you back to leading a life you want to live.