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We may lie, cheat, procrastinate, bite our nails, battle to be punctual, snore, drink too much coffee, smoke or perform a hundred other habits.

Most of us reading this would have identified with at least one of the examples listed here, if not most of them! All of these habits, together with many hundreds not listed, are detrimental to our lives in the long term, but ease our tension in the short term. We are feeling uptight, sad or angry and a quick fag or nail-biting session helps release the stress caused by the emotion, even though we may regret having done so later, when we battle to breath after walking upstairs, or are ashamed of our unsightly nails.

Yet still we persist in repeating the same pointless and harmful behaviors, seldom questioning why we do so. Even loosing jobs, relationships, our health or the respect of others, seldom persuades us to change.

We all repeat behavior that is harmful to us, be it on an physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level. At this point many of you may want to protest that you don’t have any behavioral issues. Maybe you don’t chew things, have addictions or deviant sexual habits. Just as matters of interest though, ask your partner, friends, family or colleagues what habits you have and you could be in for a big surprise!

You may be blissfully unaware that you speak too loudly, scratch your crotch while thinking or that you sniff often and play with your nose hair. Many people are surprised to find out that they do have habits that they were not really aware of. While you may not have an addiction to obvious habits such as tobacco, narcotics or alcohol, you may need three large spoons of sugar in your tea, are addicted to being sweet and polite, (even when you are really feeling resentful,) constantly belittle yourself or feel you need to do things for the approval of others to feel a sense of self-worth.

Why then is habitual behavior so intrinsic to our existence? What’s the point? Until now we have largely overlooked, denied or ignored our habits, yet as the mind-body connection becomes more understood, we have to acknowledge that there must be a connection between what we do and what we feel, particularly if its behavior we repeat. Habits indicate emotional issues that are constantly trying to gain our attention.


Stress and habits

Broadly speaking we can sight stress as the overriding emotional cause of negative repetitive behavior. Stress can be caused by many factors, such as fear, repressed anger, resentment, jealousy, anxiety and so on. Stress then in itself is not what causes the habit, rather the emotions that lead up to experiencing life as stressful are the root cause. We get stressed over what we have suppressed as opposed to expressed.


Habits and our Ego

If we follow the Biblical concept of “man know thyself,” then our habits provide a remarkably accessible tool to discover more about the hidden aspects of ourselves. So often we deny or avoid examining the real issues that dis-empower us. Our ego, in its battle for power will trick us into not facing our truths, for the ego does not want us to grow spiritually, for as we do so it looses control over us. If we look at a negative issue to do with ourselves, the ego will work hard to delude us into believing that we aren’t like that or convince us that we were just born with a quick temper and don’t need to change.

Understanding our habits and behavior then, provides us with an opportunity to bypass the ego and with tangible “proof,” avoid denial. If we can accept the idea that what we do mirrors who we are, by finding out what our habits represent, we discover more about our unconscious selves and so become more conscious.

The next time you find yourself repeating some behavior, don’t deny or decry what you are doing. Contemplate, meditate and ask for guidance – get to the core understanding of why you do what you do. Then work with it. That way your habits will become your healers.

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