What is a habit? What is a habit in relationship to chronic pain? We all have habits of how we do things- from how we brush our teeth, to how we towel off after a shower. We have habitual responses to pain, to the people in our lives, to toughts that we have- to virtually everything that we encounter on a somewhat regular basis. Habits are a kind of shorthand- a somewhat more efficient way of managing things that we do regularly.
But what if the habits that we have are hurting us? Habitual ways of using ourselves, habitual ways of thinking and feeling often are the source of much misery, substituting a quick shorthand response where perhaps a more thoughtful or non-habitual response would be more useful.
We get into habitual patterns that are harmful or hurtful in somewhat innocent ways sometimes. For instance, we get into the car the same way- because that is how we learned to do it. Never mind that we wrench our back a bit every time we do it this way. Sometimes we learn a way of responding in an instant as a result of some trauma physical or emotional. Then we continue responding that way to similar feeling situations.
What is needed in all manner of hurtful or harmful habitual patterns is to step back just a bit, become conscious of the pattern, learn what we physically do in that situation, then set about to alter what we are doing. We can go a long ways toward freeing up really stuck habitual patterns by being very mindful of what the exact physical sequence is when we respond habitually. We can help immensly by actively mimicking the habitual pattern that we run as a kind of human subroutine. By doing this, we can, in a sense take over the pattern, make it ours consciously instead of having the habit run us unconsciously. By doing this we can begin to notice the habitual response when it is just beginning. Perhaps then we can do a pattern interrupt, change the routine a bit, substitute something more functional and freeing perhaps.