Why is it so Hard to Change?

In previous posts, I've mentioned the concept of subconscious programming, and why it is that we become set in our ways. Before the age of 7, our brain is in a state of theta, similar to hypnosis. Our parents, and later teachers and peers, create our "reality." By the age of 7 years, subconscious programming is complete. We are TAUGHT what we believe and how to act. Because we are not aware of this process, we continue to act the same way over and over again, becoming stuck in habitual patterns. Neural pathways form in our brain that keep us stuck in those patterns of thought and behavior. Therefore, we tend to get ourselves into situations that reinforce our beliefs.

95% of our time in adulthood is spent in subconscious programming. Our practiced beliefs become our "reality." We become our emotions. With lack of self-awareness or anyone else teaching us differently, we are unaware of this and how to change it. We literally become "stuck in our ways." We have spent our entire life up until this point practicing our beliefs -- whether they are realistic or not. Therefore, when trying to change a belief or form a new habit, our brain will try to bounce back to what it knows.

No one taught us that our thoughts aren't fact. No one taught us that we are not our emotions. Instead of saying "I feel sad," we say "I am sad." No one taught us any of this, so therefore we grew up believing the same things over and over again, no matter how much they no longer served us. Our parents did the best they could with what they knew (refer to my post about forgiving your parents) and we have done the best we could with what we knew, too.

This is why it feels so hard to make a change or form a new habit. I have shared with you in a previous post that it takes anywhere between 40-90 days to break and thus form a new habit. And that means practicing that new thought or behavior pattern consistently every single one of those days. However, that does not mean that after that 90-day period, you therefore can be done practicing. Unfortunately, that's just not how the brain works.

The neural pathways in our brain are formed by how we think and speak. Therefore, it order to change our pathways, we need to think and speak differently -- consistently. Every time we act out on an old thought or belief, we strengthen the pathway. Therefore, we continue to condition and reinforce our beliefs.

Our brain is constantly taking in input from our environment. We need to become conscious of our thoughts and therefore how we act as a result. We have to take the time to acknowledge and thus question our thoughts, in order to create a more balanced perspective.

When we are not conscious of our thoughts and emotions, we become trapped in them. That thus leads us to react the same way over and over again. When we take responsibility for our emotions, we are no longer trapped. We no longer take what others do/say personally, we no longer feel exhausted from our emotions and we no longer act in self-destructive ways. It may not have been your fault that you grew up believing certain things, but it is no one else's fault but your own to continue acting the way you do in adulthood. It is time to take responsibility for your emotions and actions.

The next time you have a negative thought, observe it rather than react on it.

For example: Your friend cancels your plans for dinner because she is tired. Typically, you would take this personally and start to question if her canceling has anything to do with you. You begin to think to yourself: "Is she mad at me?" You start to panic and feel the physiological response of sweatiness, fluttering in your stomach and your heart beating quickly. You then begin to text her back a passive aggressive response and inquire whether or not you did something wrong. STOP.

Steps to take:

1. Acknowledge the thought.

2. Assess the emotion(s) coming up as a result. Breathe through the emotions.

3. Ask yourself: "Is this absolutely true? Could there be another side to the story I am telling myself?"

4. Reframe to the more balanced perspective. For example, say to yourself: "She said she is canceling because she is tired. Her actions have nothing to do with me. I choose to not take what she does personally. If her decision does have anything to do with me, then I will address it if it is brought to my attention."

5. Perform opposite action. React differently than you typically would. If your automatic reaction is to begin texting her back asking if she is mad at you, type it in a "note" in your phone and go back to it in 15 minutes. I am almost positive you will decide not to send it. Instead, text her back that you hope she feels better and that you look forward to getting together again soon.

6. Assess the result. How do you feel? Continue to breathe through your physical sensations until they pass. They will.

7. Pay attention to the evidence. Although it may have felt uncomfortable, did you have a more positive result from changing your thought and acting differently? Stick that in your back pocket to remember for a future incident.

8. Continue to reinforce over and over to yourself that what others do has nothing to do with you. You will eventually begin to form this new, healthier, realistic belief.

To create a new reality is to be intentional with your words. Your body hears everything your mind says. Make a conscious choice to expand your perception. You are trapped in a narrative that no longer serves you. That's all it is: a story. Rewrite it, every single day.

Life becomes simple when you are committed to your thoughts and emotions. This process will take time. You will have to reframe your thoughts over and over again. It took you years of reinforcement to become stuck in these self-destructive patterns. It will take time to change and improve them. I know this process seems tedious, but I promise you, it works.

Slowly but surely, you will see change. And you will love it.

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