These are more often described as conditioned responses and they can be particularly annoying when they arise. I think we are all aware of how habits play themselves out so in that respect they are almost like another part of ourselves that is working on an autopilot basis. We set out to undertake a task and our body is already doing the task for us before we have decided what has to be done. Or we respond verbally to a conversation and before we have given it any thought a stream of words and statements come out of our mouth. So we can see that some habits can be very useful and at other times they can be quite inappropriate to the situation on hand.

This demonstrates that there is a mountain of stored responses on hand in our minds that our brain then simply passes on to the motion or verbal articulation. A problem can arise when they were appropriate for what happened in the past but are no longer relevant to a current situation. This is where our emotional state can interfere with our mental state. A situation arises and we get a reflex emotion arise which mirrors a similar past event. In reality the current event may be about to play out quite differently from the past event but our emotional memory is so strong that it triggers an old mental state. And here lies the problem because we react from that past emotional state that is overriding our ability to recognise what is really presenting itself.

Be very mindful of how strongly you are defending your reaction or actions as that will be a good indicator of where the emotions are coming from. We are actually needing to relearn about our behavior to overcome the problem of when habits become counterproductive. Our emotions can be our best friends or our worst enemies. When we are driving a car the learned behaviour can be very useful but when we get angry or defensive then we know that something has triggered the way we are feeling. If we get caught up in the disturbed emotional states then we are more likely to create a story to justify our behaviour or what we are saying. However when we are aware that we are swinging out of balance then our emotions can at least signal to us that we have been triggered and it might be a good idea to stop, have a pause and evaluate what and why we are feeling the way we are. That’s when our emotions can be our best friends.

Habits are like imprints in our subconscious. Its like a short cut that can cue us on what actions we might want to take based on what happened last time or many times before. However we are not static objects, we are always evolving and as such a habit may actually no longer be the best way for us to evolve further. At its best a habit can act as a foundation of knowledge we can build upon, at its worst we respond based on a past emotional response that prevents from seeing what is now available to us and can be acted on from a different perspective.

Unfortunately many of us are still caught up in our old emotional responses that were either traumatic or only appropriate to the time and place they initially arose. It will take fortitude and perseverance to both recognise and change a habit that is no longer serving us. Self acknowledgement will be the first step to take to change outdated habits. Reflection within or from others will help to identify when a habit is running the show. Professional therapy will give you a more neutral territory to be able to expose the emotions that are still distorting our present reality. And sometimes just a good break or pause will assist us to review and reset.