Have you ever wondered:
- Why is change so hard?
- Why do I tend to repeat the same mistake I thought I already learned?
- Have I permanently slid back into my old, unhealthy habits?
- Have I truly changed?”
You’re not alone.
Listening to Tory Eletto’s podcast, “The Myths of Healing,” one thing stood out to me. If you’ve repeated the behavior or thought pattern that you’re actively working on improving, it doesn’t mean that you’re not healing or that you’re back to square one.
Instead, recognizing and noticing the unhealthy behavior or thought pattern is a sign of healing.
I tell my clients that the first step to change is being aware. After that, it’s a matter of actively working on how you can change that behavior or thought pattern.
Many think that if they fall back into a dysfunctional behavior or thought pattern, they’re back to the beginning of their learning journey.
I beg to differ.
It’s impossible to go back to square one because just by being where you are, you’ve already learned something new about yourself and the situation.
Yes, it may feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back. But you’re not the same you – you’re now conscious of the behavior or thought. That means you have more knowledge and accountability.
Shifting Your Focus
When a situation arises, focus less on trying to change your thoughts and feelings. Instead, focus on how you can respond to your thoughts and feelings.
Imagine this scenario: your goal is to stop smoking, and you’ve been nicotine-free for 11 months. When you hit the twelfth month, your company lets you go from your job. Wanting to cope with the loss, you cave and buy a pack of cigarettes
You have two choices:
- Be critical and harsh with yourself
- Respond with self-compassion
Steer Away From Harsh Judgment
When you judge yourself harshly, you might think:
“Wow. I can’t believe I went back to smoking just like that. I’m such a failure because I have no self-control. The 11 months of my sobriety was a waste.”
The automatic thought process and the feelings that surfaced are negative.
Move to Self-Compassion
Feelings of failure or hopelessness are opportunities in which a good therapist will encourage you to pause. Then, you can reframe your negative thoughts and feelings.
Instead of trying to control your feelings, change your response to those feelings.
A compassionate response may sound like this:
“I’m really having a hard time processing being let go from my job. I feel very disappointed in myself for smoking. But, I’m not a failure because I picked up smoking again. Instead, I can control what I can do, so I’ll exercise instead of smoking as it’s much healthier.”
Look at the two thought processes. The automatic thought process was harsh and shaming. But, on the other hand, the compassionate response owned up to the behavior, sounded validating and shifted the focus to what you could do and how you could change.
If you’re struggling to shift your focus from the negatives to the positives, and if you feel that you’re constantly sliding back to the baseline, reach out for support!
Our therapists would love to work through this with you, and we can schedule a session to process this. You’re not alone in this journey of healing!