In this 2nd article of my 3 part series, I will continue to outline some of my key takeaways from Dr. Amy Johnson’s book The little book of big change. When it comes to breaking unwanted habits, the approach Dr. Johnson offers in this book has made more difference in my self-healing journey, than any other approach I’ve explored.
The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle
While we can definitely benefit from traditional psychology’s approach to healing, an essential aspect of the whole picture is missing. What’s left out reveals the background context that is informing everything we experience. This missing piece of the puzzle, is the spiritual dimension of existence.
Spirituality provides an understanding of what is before and beneath our habit (and all experience). It shows us what we really are, and how human experience works at the most basic, fundamental level. It reveals to us that thought, like all human experience, is naturally fleeting, temporary, constantly ebbing and flowing through us. Whereas we, are the stable, eternal, unchanging presence, within which all experience occurs.
When we bring this knowledge together with the scientific discovery that urges fall apart on their own, when viewed in a different way, our relationship with our habit naturally changes. It thus becomes evident that while our habits may appear to be permanent, the only thing keeping them alive, is our relationship, views and beliefs in connection to them.
When we marry the spiritual truth that we already are (and always have been), mentally healthy and habit free, with modern neuroscience’s finding that our habit is made up of thoughts which fade on their own, the way we experience our habit naturally shifts.
Understanding the spiritual dimension of our problem, reveals to us the source of physical manifestations, which we experience as our habit. It enables us to see that our problem, is ultimately based on an innocent misunderstanding.
Willpower is not the answer
Willpower is an energy that we can use to great effect for a lot of things we want to accomplish. And it can sometimes be used to break habits. But contrary to popular belief and methodology – which always advises us to do more, try harder, and persist – willpower is not always the best tool to employ, nor is it always possible to do so. For when we have little to no energy left to abstain from appeasing our urges, willpower becomes irrelevant.
However, the good news is that there is a much more appropriate way to our approach our habits. We don’t actually have to use willpower at all, regardless of what habit or addiction we are dealing with.
The key lies in insightfully seeing the truth about habits. As no matter how strongly we experience our urges – both emotionally and physically – they are still temporary. They are always fleeting, ever-changing and in motion. There is a constant momentum in our life-experience, which wants to move through us, on its own. There is nothing we HAVE TO do, in order to make it move. It doesn’t need our help, as it moves on its own, naturally.
To use an analogy, our urges, drives and impulses are like waves: they all have a beginning, peak, and then subside naturally.
If we innocently see our habits as somehow permanent and impossible to experience without giving in to, then we will act in a certain way. Whereas in reality, drives to perform a certain behaviour are only temporary experience, part of the ever changing ebb and flow of life. You CAN experience them and just do nothing about them in the same time!
We Don’t Need More Information
We’ve been conditioned through our education system to approach all knowledge in an intellectual manner – learning through analysis, repetition, memorization. But factual knowing might not help us when it comes to experiencing freedom from a habit.
There is another mode of knowing, which isn’t based on a sterile recording of information. This different type of knowledge comes together with real meaning and a deep sense of understanding, which goes beyond the intellectual reasoning of the logical mind.
It is this kind of knowledge, which sinks beyond our conscious awareness, that causes the relationship with our habit to change. And once this relationship changes, our life experience changes as well. This, is insightful knowledge.
Insight goes right through the conditioned layers of the mind, and shines a light on the actuality of what we’re dealing with. But as opposed to intellectual knowing, which is an active experience that we make happen, insightful knowing is usually a passive experience, that happens on its own.
It is something we generally experience when we are open, relaxed, and our mind is relatively peaceful. We can therefore facilitate insight through creating the conditions in which it naturally occurs, but we can’t force it to happen.
While all thought is fleeting, temporary, and impersonal, a lot of us are certainly not experiencing it this way. And that is because sometimes we interfere with the river of thought’s natural flow, by thinking about our thinking.
When we don’t recognise thought for what it is, view it as something personal, and take it seriously, we innocently and unknowingly create a log jam in the river of thinking.
We experience hundreds of thousands of thoughts every day, and most of them go through us unobstructed. To give a random example, thoughts like “I’m hungry”, “I like this “, or “that’s annoying”, might naturally come and go. But there are others which we give attention to, worry about, and confuse with reality, thinking they mean something about us, or that they are the truth about something.
This is what creates habits. Ultimately, the only difference between someone who experiences any particular habit and someone who doesn’t, is that one person thought about their thinking, and the other didn’t.
Join me again soon, for Part 3 of this series, where I continue to share my insights from Dr. Amy Johnson’s The Little Book Of Big Change.