Here are five techniques you can use to work with habitual patterns
as they arise in the moment. In the same way that detrimental
habits can become ingrained, they can be replaced with new behavioral
styles that feel more wakeful and sane. The key is not to expect
any quick fixes—please be patient and kind with yourself.
1. Expand Awareness Gain familiarity with your habitual patterns.
Notice how you feel when you act out of a habitual tendency.
Notice how particular areas of your body may feel uncomfortable.
The more you do this, the sooner you will be able to identify your
habitual behavior once it starts.
2. Make Space Simply breathing, relaxing your body, and moving
into another stance may be enough to shift from, or slow down, a
habitual reaction. So when you notice you are acting out of habit in
a relational situation (or otherwise), slow down and take some space. Pause to
breathe a few times. Feel how your body posture and sensations
reflect your reactions to the situation. You may want to delay
interaction by suggesting another time to talk, or by letting the
other person know you need some time to think and you will get
back to them.
3. Explore Choice When acting out of habit it can be hard even
to imagine there are alternative ways of doing things. So it is
important to spend some time exploring what other options there
are in the situation. Even if these choices seem outrageous or
unrealistic, allow yourself to be free and creative. You are not going
to act on any of these options yet, so have fun with it. If this step is
difficult, imagine how other people, or even characters from books
or movies, would act in the same situation.
4. Step into Choice From those options, choose how you want
to act. Do not expect a particular result; simply act from the conviction
that this is what feels right for you to do. When you first start
challenging your habitual patterns, you may feel awkward and
wrong-footed, but that lets you know you are in the right place.
Even if you choose what you would have habitually done in the first
place, it will feel different because you are acting voluntarily and
5. Re-Run If you find you have completely played out an interaction
from the stuck place of habitual tendency, do not get discouraged
or self-critical. It is significant that you noticed your pattern,
and you can still work with the situation by re-running it. When
did you become aware you were falling into the habit? What could
you have done differently? Imagine how that would feel to act in
that new way. Doing this will build the power of choice around this
habit for the next time it arises.