hello and Welcome!
Having worked for many years with individuals struggling with various forms of anxiety I have identified a coping mechanism I call habit reaction patterns to manage anxiety.
This is a coping strategy that starts out creating a sense of control over their internal anxiety. The individual will describe that indeed the habit reactive pattern in some way saved her from an extraordinarily stressful situation or circumstance. Unfortunately this anxiety management method produces a false sense of security and overtime the habit reaction pattern serves to drive the individual’s overall behavior and results in a diminished sense of empowerment and a lack of security.
Habits are highly desirable to create structure in a meaningful way. When a habit degrades into a habit reaction pattern it becomes undesirable . Habit reaction patterns lack present moment authenticity. These are reactive in nature, a set of unconscious, unthinking, unchallenged, automatic reactions.
The patterning pulls you into a specific way of behaving. Think of how the groove of a rut pulls you around a circle. It takes an extra exertion of energy to jump out of the rut and choose your course. The habit reaction pattern acts like the groove or furrow, it takes you into the behavior Habit like any reaction in an automatic, non-present-moment-thinking-way (unconscious).
This reaction is not responsive to the present moment situation, it happens in a non-intuitive non-mindful way. Habit reaction patterns can be triggered into reaction; where a trigger acts like the groove that pulls a person into a set of interpretations and actions (reactions) to survive, or to solve a historical problem, or quell anxiety.
Tied into the habit reaction pattern is a highly fine tuned trigger-detection mechanism.
- This mechanism is super-sensitive to interpreting danger, hyper-vigilant, hyper-reactive.
- The trigger may be linked to an earlier situation in which you felt in danger of severe harm.
- The experience trips the trigger and then the habit reaction pattern fires into action – forcing you to behave in a specific way – even when you cognitively feel you do not want to or feel it is inappropriate.
When this set of feelings happen, the habit reaction pattern is now driving your behavior rather than your proactive spiritual-cognitive-behavior processes. You are no longer in the driver seat of your life. It is as if you are simply watching from behind a glass window, rather than responding to the specific, dynamic multi-level issues at hand. You feel powerless to stop yourself from reacting in the manner prescribed by the habit reaction pattern.
In order to get out of the rut, groove, or habit reaction one has to invoke two things, awareness and allowance. This allows for a sense of present moment empowerment and mindfulness.
The habit reaction pattern behavior may have been highly effective when you first developed it. In fact it may be the best thing you could have done to respond to the original anxiety conflict that set of the patterning habit. This makes it difficult for you to let it go.
You may feel like it is the thing that sets you apart in some way or gives you an edge in some way. This internal feeling creates an attachment to that style of being in the world, such that confronting the need to eradicate the ineffective habit reaction pattern may be thwarted. This sets up a difficult and challenging cycle, you continually, automatically, invoke the original survival mechanism without awareness that you are actually diminishing your power through the reactive mechanism.
The most healing thing to do is
- to accurately identify how the patterning was beneficial
- to accurately identify that the habit is ineffective in your present moment situation and management of anxiety
- to place the behavior into your past as a once successful, but not currently successful pattern of reacting to anxiety
- and disassemble the coping strategy and its automatic reactive power.
Habits are developed through a series of trial and error. A need arises, a behavior appears to resolve the identified problem and viola a habit develops. This is an excellent mechanism of comfort and structure or meaning-making in action. It is a part of how we develop, learn and integrate, structure behavior. It’s highly effective model to make sense out of the competing needs in society.
When this mechanism goes awry. The insidious quality of a habit overtaking as driver of your behavior is subtle.
- First, there is a sense of invention,
- then a settling-in of success in using the habit to resolve a conflict.
- After a time the habit begins to drive the situation. The action becomes an automatic reaction of if this then that.
Once this internal directive becomes hardwired the habit drives the set of responses available to you in a given situation, so it becomes a reaction, like the jerking of your knee when hit by the doctor’s mallet – kick straight out. This automatic reaction creates a hardwire rut that drives your behavior.
Any awareness process can assist you in getting out of a habit reactive pattern coping strategy toward anxiety.
- Mindful meditation,
- the practice of Yoga,
are all excellent practices to increase centering, present moment focus, and balanced neutral response to anxiety.
Use the stop look and listen method to increase your awareness.Once you have developed awareness, use the breathe, wait it out, and reveal process to increase your tolerance for allowance.
These two together, awareness and allowance, create space to respond effectively to your anxiety and change your behavior from ineffective habit reactions to mindful responsiveness. You will move from a need for control and a sense of insecurity to self-confidence and a sense of inner empowerment and strength. More on this is the next few blogs, in love and light, beth.