SAYING “NO” TO HABITS, PATTERNS AND ADDICTIONS
What do you want to release: behavior, habits, patterns, addictions? Or perhaps I should say, “Who do you want to release?” Maybe it’s time to say “no” to undesirable health or financial conditions, or toxic relationships. While on my Journey to Inner Freedom, I’ve discovered a method that gives me freedom and peace. But first let’s examine the cause and core of our behavior; and why we attract the conditions and relationships.
Ernie Larsen, a writer, counselor, and authority on codependency and inner child recovery, says “What you live with you learn; and what you learn you practise, and what you practise you become”. That’s why patterns are so hard to change, but it can be done by saying “No.” This book tells how I did it, and you can too. In his tape series on adult children of alcoholics, and codependency, Mr. Larsen gives a startling fact: 98 percent of life is habit, and only 2 percent is choice. If we remember that habits operate on the subconscious level, we understand that we no longer have conscious control, it’s automatic response. But the good news is that habits are learned, so they can be changed by our conscious decision.
But Ernie gives us hope when he says that we can stop habits by saying “No.” However, that’s easier said than done, because habits have a life of their own and they will fight to stay alive and in control. So whenever you start to change a habit, you meet with terrible resistance; everything from sickness, pain, anger, even accidents, and certainly good reasons will keep you from completing your mission. Habits are energy, and therefore alive, so when you attempt to change, it’s a death threat, therefore you must reassure them that they won’t die by explaining that the energies are merely being changed into another form.
Until I read John Bradshaw’s “Homecoming,” I knew there was a missing piece to the puzzle (of my life), and he gave me the answer. It seems there are neuro-pathways along which the experiences of our lives form grooves, much like a phonograph record. Every time something similar occurs, it goes along that groove, and it deepens. Thus patterns are formed.
Make New Grooves
The process for changing patterns is to make new grooves with new patterns. In time the old one’s fade from lack of use, but if anything triggers that old pattern, away it goes on the old groove, and the subconscious says, “Oh, I know how that works,” and the former conditioning behavior takes over, as it did with me in my upcoming computer story. The inner child is associated with the subconscious, and reacts accordingly. It doesn’t know the difference between then and now, so whatever happens now is handled as then. That’s why we need to give it new conditioning patterns.
Although this book is about “No,” I knew it was time to say “Yes” when God began providing me with experiential aids, my word for the life processes through which I learn my lessons.
Our New Computer
This first lesson, on conditioning, came with our new computer. My husband, Ralph, spent many days setting it up, reloading files, and training me to use it. What a joy! We even named it: Transformation; Trans, for short. For me it was like learning from scratch, because my previous Word Processor program and computer were obsolete. But the ease of this program soon won me over; like changing from a horse-and-plow to a tractor, and I zipped along with my writing.
But then the computer began freezing-up, and the keys wouldn’t work. Nothing would move, and we’d have to turn off the computer and start over; losing whatever we hadn’t filed to save. We soon learned to file every sentence, but the problem worsened until we could no longer use the computer. And this is when I began noticing the process of conditioning. Whereas I had felt joy with our new computer, and looked forward to using it, I began not wanting to use it anymore. Fear of losing my writing prevailed as I desperately filed each precious sentence. And then when it completely stopped, I felt all those familiar feelings of abandonment and hopelessness.
Let’s Take it Back
However, I’ve been learning to take care of myself during my inner child recovery program, so I knew I wasn’t a helpless two-and-a-half-year-old child trying to take care of my mother, who had abandoned me. I’m an adult, and if I don’t know what to do, I find someone who does. In this case my husband said, “Let’s take it back.”
Although I hated giving up Transformation, I knew there was no other choice, so Ralph went through the process of saving all the files on separate discs, and we re-boxed our computer. My inner child, whom I’ve named Joanie, felt sorrow, loss, despair; all the symptoms of grief, but my adult-self knew this must be done. Within the day we’d made the exchange for the new Transformation, brought home the new computer, and reloaded all the programs. However, by this time the conditioning had taken hold. I no longer felt the joy or anticipation of using my new “Trans.” In fact, I went back to using my original Apple computer; nothing wrong with the horse-and-plow. At least it was familiar and reliable. I didn’t want to use the new one because it might happen again. But Ralph reassured me the problem was due to a bad chip, and that he understood what had happened, and had taken steps to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. So I returned to the new computer; at first with fear and trepidation, so I filed often. Then gradually I felt more secure, filed less, and finally zipped along much as before, yet in the back of my mind was the knowledge that my new computer had failed me, and it could happen again.
Abandonment Symptoms and Reconditioning
While going through the bad-computer process, I became painfully aware of the conditioning process I went through as a child; even body pains, and negative emotional responses returned. I realized the symptoms of my abandonment syndrome had been triggered, and I explained to my inner child, “That was then; this is now. This is a computer, not my parents; I’m an adult, not a child. I can and will take care of you. And it wasn’t all up to me; we got help from someone who knew what to do.” With this input I was able to process through the abandonment syndrome faster, and also not add it to my groove pattern. In fact, it helped reinforce my new patterns.
I used the above process to complete another conditioning experiential aid that occurred when Ralph and I were on our morning hike on a nearby hillside. I felt we were safe to walk through the brush, rather than the established paths, because in February the rattlesnakes and spiders would be hibernating. As we happily blazed new trails, Joanie sang a little ditty she’d improvised. The early spring flowers were blooming in shades of purple, yellow, and orange.
The sun glistened across the ocean to the west, and reflected a pink glow on the snow atop the distant mountains to the north. Before long we emerged onto the main trail, and started homeward. But there across our path stretched a long snake basking in the sunlight. A garter snake Ralph said, but I looked closer, and saw rattles at least an inch long, and it definitely had diamond designs on its back. Suddenly its rattles whirred with a frightening sound, and in one movement it had coiled with its tongue lashing. In the same moment I pushed Ralph aside and headed in the opposite direction.
It’s Not Safe!
My inner child felt scared, and also betrayed and confused. She had felt safe, and now she knew it was not safe. Familiar symptoms overtook my body; I felt weak, almost numb, and like my very life had been violated. I had trusted, and been wrong in my judgment. I felt a flashback to childhood when feeling safe and secure in my family, and then they disappeared. I never used to understand these traumatic feelings in my present life relating to childhood, but since inner child recovery work, I know it’s Joanie, so I take care of her. First by getting out of the way of danger, then letting her talk about it, and not shaming her for her feelings.
Stay out of the Bushes
Although she’d now undergone conditioning: it’s no longer safe on my hillside, I knew we must soon return. But with some new guidelines: rattlesnakes in southern California do not hibernate in warm, sunny weather, so we stay out of the bushes, and walk on paths. Also, midday sun is probably their favorite, so go earlier in the day. And be careful.
We took another route for our next several walks, then it rained, so we stayed inside.
Finally one morning Joanie felt ready to tackle the hillside again. Her first choice was to avoid it, but I’ve taught her that she must not allow that onetime encounter with Mr. Rattlesnake to keep her from enjoying her walk, and her precious flowers, ocean, and mountain view. So we approached the dreaded spot, and noticed no snake on the path, nor did we hear any rattle. Although this spot contained some of my favorite purple flowers, which Joanie usually stops to visit, this time we moved right along. It’s enough push through for this trip. Next time we will feel safer, and eventually the fear will be minimized, if not overcome; another example of reconditioning.
I don’t understand the technical explanation; nor do I understand electricity, but I know how to turn on the switch and enjoy the benefits. So the following program for successful habit changes will be simple and practical:
HOW TO CHANGE PATTERNS
1. Identify the pattern:
Sometimes we’re in denial and don’t recognize the pattern. But these patterns are based on childhood decisions we made to cope, or they could be programming from parents, teachers, or spiritual
leaders. Then once the pattern is established, it repeats over and over; and we feel helpless to change. Ask God to help identify the pattern.
2. Describe the pattern:
What form does it take? What is its pattern? Are there sights, sounds, smells, colors, people, events that set off the pattern? Look for the triggering mechanisms, so you can eventually avoid the cycle.
3. Determine the pattern’s negative payoff:
Some habits are beneficial and have no negative results, but others can be destroying your relationships, finances, or health. Upon examination, we may find the pattern has some kind of payoff that we are unwilling to admit, especially that it’s controlling our lives. This step will take some honest introspection, but it’s worth the discomfort for the positive results that follow.
4. You must want to change:
If someone else has brought our character flaw to our attention, change may not occur, because we don’t really want to give them the satisfaction. Usually the 3 r’s (resistance, resentment, and rebellion) interfere, and the pattern remains intact. It can change if there’s enough emotion involved on your part, such as a threat that motivates you: job loss, or relationship ending. The pain may become so unbearable that we want to change at any cost. And there is a price, but nothing like we’ve already paid by life not working. So what is the price? Perhaps willingness to look at, and give up the payoff.
5. Change the pattern:
Now define a new, positive habit or pattern to replace the negative one. Whenever we create a vacuum, we must fill it with something else, or the old energies (habit) will return. So I focus on positive affirmations to replace the old energies.
6. New direction:
This can be traumatizing, so start with tiny steps rather than an overwhelming change, to fulfill your new pattern. Look at other options, do it differently. Fill the void left by the old habit with new thoughts, activities, relationships, or behavior. This can feel strange and disorienting at first, but persevere
until the new habit is established.
7. Keep your thoughts and attention focused on the desired results, not what you don’t want.
What gets our attention gets us; so if you think about the old pattern, it’s still got you. Change your focus as we did for habits.
8. Thank God for bringing about the desired results:
Always thank God for your desired results, preferably in advance, and again at the end of the process. We cannot do this by ourselves, but God gives us the strength and ability to change any habit, pattern, or addiction. It’s good to start with this step, and then conclude with it too. And use it often throughout the process.
APPLYING THE STEPS
Now, let’s put these steps into practise. For instance, if you want to quit smoking, you”ve identified the pattern you want to change. Then you say to the energies involved in that pattern, “Return to God-energy and be transformed into positive and productive energies for good.” Then say, “Thank you, God for removing these negative energies.
Now, in the name of Jesus Christ, and I AM THAT I AM, return the energies to Divine Substance and transform them into positive and productive energies for good.
The final step is affirming that the change has been made, and the positive energies are now at work in your life. “Thank you, God, that my mind, body, and emotions are now free from the addictive control of nicotine, and I am using the new positive energies of freedom, joy, and self-control to focus on having more fun, satisfying relationships, and money-making activities.”
Of course, you can create your own appropriate affirmations. For a smoker who has recently changed the habit, every time you feel the urge to smoke, if God hasn’t already removed that compulsion, start using affirmations similar to above. This gets the mind, and body focusing on the positive results rather than the negative habit. Because smoking is ritualistic, you can create a new ritual to take its place. For instance, Ralph hasn’t made the decision to completely give up his habit, but for now he’s cutting down.
A new ritual for after meals, talking on the phone, or other times you would otherwise light-up will help. That first drag in the morning is often the hardest to eliminate, so think of something fun for your inner child to anticipate each morning to replace the cigarette. One ritual Ralph uses in the morning is to prepare his meal-replacement shake which he methodically opens, stirs, and slowly drinks. It’s okay to have ice cream or popcorn; anything to preoccupy the child with a fun replacement for the habit.
A New Diet
I wanted to change body habits that caused indigestion whenever I eat, so I asked that the negative energies be removed, and then I affirmed: “God-energy is in every atom and cell of my body” as I focused on the millions of atoms in my body vibrating and radiating with God-energy. Then I affirmed, “God-love fills every atom and cell of my body,” and I repeated the process. I continued with other positive aspects of God, such as Light and Life, that are filling the atoms and cells of my body. Sickness, an accident, or other incredibly reasonable happenings can foil your good intentions, right? That’s habit/pattern in control. Isn’t it frightening that we don’t really have control of our own lives?
You’re Not Dying
When I find myself in this vise-lock I say, “I’m going if I have to go on a stretcher.” Sometimes it feels as if a life and death struggle death battle is in progress; and it is because the patterns/habits think they’re fighting for their life. So I’ve found it helps if I reassure them by saying, “You aren’t dying. In fact, you will be more alive, and even adulated now, because your energies are merging into Divine Substance (God) into positive and productive energies for good. You’ll now be admired and respected, rather than hated, as if the enemy. What do You Really Want? Sometimes the above works, and others it doesn’t. It usually depends on how intense our desire to change the habit or pattern. In most cases they serve some need or purpose, so we don’t really want them to go. And this is the scary part; we don’t even know what we want on the subconscious level. That’s why learning to communicate with your subconscious and inner child gives some great clues for inner healing; not usually an overnight process. I’ve spent a lifetime learning and experiencing recovery; now I’m dedicating the rest of my life to writing and teaching others.
SHORTCUT STEPS TO CHANGE HABITS
If you’re in an emergency situation and don’t have time for the long version for Changing Patterns, use this shortcut:
1. Identify the habit:
Sometimes we’re in denial and don’t recognize the habit. Usually someone has brought it to our attention, and when the results disturb us enough that we want to change, we can continue with the process. You can also ask God to help identify the habit that is causing the repeated unwanted result.
2. Tell the energies of the habit to return to Divine Substance (God-energy) and be transformed into positive and productive energies for good. All habits are energy, so this energy must be redirected forwhat you want, not what you don’t want.
3. Ask God to remove the negative energies and transform them into positive and productive energies for good.
I have found that using powerful names, such as Jesus Christ or I AM THAT I AM, can have immediate results; or it can take awhile for the energies to change. This step can often be enough, but if the other steps aren’t included, you (or the habit) can sabotage the process. God always gives us what we want, but we may not want to get rid of the habit for some reason.
NEW PATTERNS PROGRAM
In my Twelve Step recovery process I learned a program that helps keep me focused on the positive, new patterns. Perhaps you can modify it to support your inner freedom process.
1. Attend meetings: Twelve Steps, or a Support Group.
2. Call or talk with someone who can give positive support (different from unwanted or unneeded advise).
3. Meet with a counselor or therapist on a regular basis.
4. Read books to inspire and inform.
5. Take care of your physical body: exercise, rest, play, good nutrition, keep clean, drink lots of water.
6. Take care of your spiritual health: develop an intimate relationship with your Higher Power.
7. Talk with your sponsor (if you’re in a Twelve Step Program).
Whenever my patterns start taking control, I stay with my above program. If I’m in remission, I can return to my therapist, “as needed,” and set aside my books awhile. But I’ve learned that I must stay with my basic program for maximum mental, physical, and emotional health.