Lots of the unhelpful behaviours, beliefs, and habits we have as adults were helpful at one time in our lives. While they might be causing unhappiness or even self-destruction now, they were probably very helpful if you grew up in an abusive or neglectful situation. 

When you’re a kid, it can be extremely difficult to escape a bad situation. So, you do whatever you can just to tolerate it and survive. You might find ways to numb yourself (like drugs, alcohol, food, daydreaming, etc.) or you might even start to believe that you deserve exactly what you’re getting (for example, thinking that you really are worthless and unlovable). Doing this can make it easier to stay compliant and avoid making the abuse even worse. 

After a while, you can automatically slip into these coping strategies, forgetting where they came from. This means you’ll probably keep using them even when they’re not helpful anymore. When this happens, you might assume that your unhelpful thoughts and behaviours are logical responses to what is happening now, in the present, or that they just represent the truth about who you are. So, you keep numbing yourself or beating yourself up and struggle to make progress on your goals.

Ingrained habits can be very hard to change but once you understand how they helped you survive in the past, you can start to see how things are (hopefully) very different now and they’re no longer needed. This gives you the freedom to step out of them and move toward new habits that better support your well-being. 

Drawn from the work of Dr. Janina Fisher: https://janinafisher.com/


Photo by Dmitriy Zub on Unsplash

Rachel Ginsberg

Rachel Ginsberg


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