Why Are Self-Sabotaging Habits So Hard to Break?
Interview with Dr. Friedemann Schaub by Janet Luhrs
Listen, my soon-to-be-healthy friend:
I have very important things to say to you in this issue. Remember last month when I told you that I went to a health retreat center? I walked in feeling like I had gotten run over by a bus and, just one week later, I walked out feeling like I owned the world. Well, I loved that feeling so much that I want to keep feeling that way, and I would love nothing more than for you to experience that same high. So, I am devoting this issue to giving you some very important elements that I learned since the retreat—things that you can do on your own, one step at a time. I’m right here with you, helping you get to the point where you feel so good that you can hardly stand yourself. The reasons I felt so good included a combination of elements—raw, healthy food; juicing; exercise; and inner cleansing. So, I hope you can adopt at least some of these ideas into your life because I assure you, you can feel like you own the world, too. And that’s just how I want you to be. –Janet
Since my health retreat, I continue to have one major question that I know you can relate to: Why are old, self-sabotaging habits so hard to break?
Dang, this is frustrating, isn’t it? I walked into my retreat feeling run down, and I walked out feeling terrific—so wouldn’t you think that with such a dramatic change, I’d want to keep up whatever health habits I created during the retreat that led me to feel like a transformed person?
You’d think so, but I didn’t. I kept up one habit and excused my way out of the rest. “Oh gosh,” I’d say. “I’m too tired or too busy today to do x, y, and z.” Or I’d think, “Well, sure, it’s easy to do this stuff when I’m on a retreat, but it’s not easy in regular life. In fact, it’s impossible, so forget it.” And so on.
But I’ve had just about enough of my excuses! Plus, I love feeling good and I don’t want to lose that feeling. Yet these two thoughts have not been enough motivation to get me to change the rest of my habits, even when I know that changing bad habits makes you feel wonderful.
Let me give you an example. The one habit I have maintained since the retreat is avoiding coffee, and I am amazed at how easy and rewarding it is to not rely on caffeine. In fact, I had a small cup of black tea at a restaurant the other evening and I ended up so wired that I could hardly sleep that night…that’s how clean my body is. I love my smoother flowing energy now. It’s so much sweeter and better than the staccato, jangled energy I got from caffeine. So, the rewards I get from maintaining my no-coffee habit are a great motivation to continue.
But what about the other habits I dropped since my return to the real world, like getting up and taking a walk outside in the brisk air first thing in the morning, or doing yoga every day? I tried twice to go for a walk in the morning, but then my habitual mind took over and convinced me it was much better to stay inside in my nice warm bed. And in the afternoon, there are a thousand other things to do besides yoga, even though I feel so good with regular yoga. You might identify with how it feels—you want to get moving and you keep trying to move, but there are chains around your ankles making it hard to go forward.
Do You Really Value Yourself?
Ah. Enter synchronicity, just when I need it. A friend of mine has been raving about a workshop she attended that was led by Friedemann Schaub, MD, PhD. He runs a program called Cellular Wisdom, which is about changing our habits from a cellular, rather than behavioral, level. How much more up my alley could this be?
I know I’m not alone in my frustration of trying to change my bad habits. Just think about the diet industry as an example. Could there be any more books or programs on losing weight? You’d have to be a mole living 12 miles underground to not know how to lose weight, yet people just can’t seem to get off the dime. Why do people smoke? Why don’t they exercise? Why do they mismanage money? Why do they lead stressful lives? Why do they keep shopping and then complain that they have too much clutter and not enough money? Why do they shortchange themselves on sleep? What is up with all of us?
So I called Dr. Schaub. I told him about my health retreat and how it made me feel so wonderful, and then we talked about why people so often sabotage themselves with their bad habits. We also talked about why affirmations and a lot of other habit-breaking methods just don’t work.
What does work, it turns out, is getting to the root of why we don’t value ourselves enough to take good care of our bodies and minds. If you truly valued yourself, you’d want to be healthy, fit, and full of natural energy, wouldn’t you? You’d want to do what it took to be in top shape. You wouldn’t put yourself last on the list as you probably do now. I wouldn’t, either.
But here’s the problem. You can’t just wake up one day and decide to value yourself more. After all, if it was so easy to truly value yourself, you would be living exactly the way you wanted. Everyone would be healthy. Nobody would be stressed to the max. Everyone would love his or her work. Nobody would be in debt or buried in clutter.
Dr. Schaub says that eating habits are a good example of how people tend to not value themselves. A lot of overweight people overeat because they have a lack of comfort in their lives. So, with an extra layer of skin, they can insulate themselves from their discomfort. Or, they feel that they don’t have to get out in the dating game because they think that “no one wants to date an overweight person anyway.” If they don’t put themselves out there, then they are not in danger of getting hurt.
Dr. Schaub says, “This is the most important step. You need to find out what’s inside your mind. The root cause is not like psychotherapy. Instead, it’s figuring out how, from the perspective of the subconscious, you perceive the world or yourself that makes this habit possible. How does not feeling good enough come out in your life? What do you need to believe about yourself in order to have this kind of behavior?”
Dr. Schaub got into this field because he realized his own life wasn’t working. He was a cardiology resident when it hit him that he had become a workaholic. “I strongly identified myself through work,” he said. “But what was missing? What was driving me? What was I trying to get through my identity with work? When I looked at all of my symptoms, it was the feeling of not having enough value unless I was the top cardiologist, or whatever I was striving for. When I figured that out, I left the field.
“I had to take a break. I realized I was living a very small portion of who I am. I started researching the depth of cells, and I became a molecular biologist. I learned that there is so much wisdom in every cell, and I began to wonder how I could work with that wisdom. How could I work with the mind, body, spirit connection?”
From what I now know about changing habits, it’s best to get professional help because, as you probably know, old, deep patterns are very hard to change on your own. You can have all the good intentions in the world, but something keeps getting in your way, doesn’t it?
I think this is incredibly important stuff and worthy of some good time and effort on your part. Let’s just start with your health habits. If you don’t have your health, you have nothing. You simply cannot put your health last. I can’t, either. So I urge you to take this seriously. Dr. Schaub says, and I agree, that once you address and reprogram your self-sabotaging behaviors and beliefs, lots of things will change in your life. In fact, there’s a saying: How we do anything is how we do everything.
When you work with a professional, you’ll be looking at three areas of your life:
- Unresolved emotional baggage. You may think you are over your old baggage, but if you’re stuck in some area of your life, your emotional baggage is running you. Emotional baggage is what gives fuel to your old patterns.
- Inner conflict. There is one part of you that wants to eat healthy and exercise, and there is another part that says, “Oh no, forget it. I don’t value myself enough to do it.” There are two subconscious personalities living inside you (all of us have them), and it’s best to work with a professional to help bring these two parts together and integrate them, rather than feeling split. Once you do this, you’ll finally feel that there is a completeness that was missing before.
- A core of limiting beliefs. This is the most important step—you need to reprogram those beliefs. You can reprogram without steps one and two, but it’s a lot easier and faster if you do all three steps together. This is why affirmations are not as successful—because you still have the old fuel of unresolved emotional baggage, inner conflict, and limiting beliefs that aren’t being addressed.
At the end of this article, I’m going to tell you how and where to find the kind of help that can reprogram your beliefs at a cellular level. For now, though, I’m going to give you a three-step exercise that you can use to try to start changing some of your habits. This exercise doesn’t address the deeper reasons why you don’t value yourself—which is better done with a professional—but if you keep at it, you could change a habit or two. At the very least, it’s good for you to understand the full picture so that you are informed.
Our Subconscious Mind Drives Our Behavior
Dr. Schaub explained that our subconscious patterns drive our behavior. This is the part of our mind that is ignored because we rely so much on our intellect that we don’t access or utilize the power of the subconscious. That’s the part that takes care of the emotional world and memories of the past. It’s also the place from where most of our physiological functions of the body are regulated and in charge of automatic patterns.
The subconscious has two directives:
- To preserve the body and take care of health.
- To increase pleasure.
Here’s how. For example, there is a certain pleasure to eating comfort food. It tastes good and makes you forget the burdens of the day. Or, it is more pleasurable to stay in bed than to get up and go for a walk in the cold.
This is why, as long as part of the subconscious mind is still finding some pleasure in hanging on to an old habit, trying to change that habit by pure willpower usually doesn’t work. You have to give your subconscious mind a very good argument about why changing the habit will be beneficial and pleasurable. You have to find reasons that are even better than not succumbing to the habit.
For instance, in my case, when my body says it doesn’t want to get out of a warm bed to go for a walk in the cold outdoors, I could visualize how good it will feel when I come back from the walk. I’ll feel totally energized, my head will be completely clear, and I’ll be ready to start the day feeling fresh and alive.
The first step in accomplishing this is to write down all the positive reasons why you want to change a particular behavior. This is called your “towards motivation.” Why does your habit make you feel better? What are the benefits of the towards motivation? Write down every positive that comes to mind.
The second step is the “away motivation.” This step involves realizing why not changing will have a lot of negative consequences. Write down all the costs associated with keeping an old, bad habit.
In my case, I know that I felt crummy before I went on my health retreat. I know what it costs me to keep the bad habit. What are those costs going to be if I continue with my bad habits for the next year and the year after that? I’ll go downhill. My pants size will go up and I’ll feel more sluggish.
A smoker might say he or she doesn’t have cancer yet, so why worry? But they need to look at the future they are driving themselves into—and that future holds a very real possibility that they could develop cancer.
The final step is called “pattern interrupt,” which means interrupting an old habit. For instance, if you usually come home and eat a big piece of chocolate, you would interrupt the habit and, instead, go for a walk. Or, if you stay up later than you’d like watching TV, the next time it is past your bedtime, you could get up, go to the kitchen, and get a glass of water. Once you’re up and moving about the kitchen, you could just keep going to your bedroom rather than sitting back down and watching TV. You are interrupting the pattern. The goal is to interrupt the pattern often enough that you set a new pattern.
If some of these ideas float your boat and you’d like to work with a professional, you can do a Google search for “neurolinguistic programming,” “time line therapy,” or “energy psychology.” You can also contact Dr. Schaub directly by calling 1-866-903-MIND. Or, visit his Web site at www.cellularwisdom.com. Good luck!