New Habits from old habits

This post is not intended to degrade anyone or self-help. Authors and bloggers do their best to help, yet intention is not all that is needed to affect change.

When someone with an inordinate amount of anxiety comes to self-help material, two things usually happen, and neither of them fix the problem.

  1. They simply replace one neuroticism with another, slightly healthier neuroticism — think someone who goes from being an alcoholic and unable to hold a job, to meditating and doing yoga five hours a day and still unable to hold a job.

  2. Or they use the self-help material as another form of avoidance. Dating advice is a classic example here — I don’t know how to ask out the person I like on a date, so I’ll read four books about it and feel like I did something. Suddenly reading the books feels far more important than actually asking the person out.

The fact is that the majority of self-help information out there is either a placebo at best or complete bunk at worst.

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Ditching a habit is very hard. Replacing a bad habit with a better habit is much more achievable. The trick is to keep going. If you change up cigs for nicotine gum you’ll eventually want to get off the nicotine. When people first show up at AA they’re used to hanging with friends who put them in situations where they’re likely to drink again. That’s why the older members crowd their lives and get them going to lots of meetings and doing twelve step work instead. However, the point of AA is that eventually you shouldn’t need it so much other than to be there for the new person. Some people replace the booze addiction with a meeting addiction because they never work the program fully. That’s not healthy, either. Boy can you hack off the bleeding deacons when you point THAT out

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