Why we keep staying with the Easy, the Comfortable and The familiar even if it's not good for us
As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.Proverbs 26:11
Yes that's an actual verse in the Bible, and yes it's the strange verse I chose to discuss in this week's post based on FMF word prompt which is EASY.
Humans (and maybe dogs) do not find change easy. We will resort to old habits and patterns even if they are not good for us because sometimes they seem more tolerable than change. Why is that? Here are several reasons why change is so hard.
Our brains are wired to form habits. Habits make it easy for us to run on automatic pilot in order to conserve mental energy. We create these pathways in our brain that are based on cause and effect. It's as if our brains are programmed early in life to create patterns of solutions to problems. For example, when stressed, reach for a cookie. It will help in the moment. Or when conflict arises, shut down, it will keep you safe from someone else's anger. Maybe some of these solutions actually did help in certain circumstances but the problem is our brain doesn't discriminate and tends to use these well worn paths in all situations, even when we've outgrown them. So sometimes we don't change old patterns and habits because it's just easier not to.
We seek what‘s comfortable. Along with choosing what's easiest, we choose what brings us comfort. Our habits are established because there is some sort of a payoff. Perhaps when we reach for a drink, or a cookie or the click of buy it now, we feel a momentary pleasure. One that brings us comfort that dials down the volume on uncomfortable feelings like saddness, anxiety, frustration or anger. We seek something to soothe us and that is not necessarily a bad thing unless the thing we seek only helps us in the short term but makes things worse in the long run. Not only might our habits hurt us, but they keep us from habituating to our emotions and send our brains the message that negative emotions are intolerable and must be avoided at all costs. We are wired to physically, physiologically and psychologically to avoid discomfort as well. If you are struggling with an addiction, you undoubtedly know this to be true. Anyone struggling with an addiction should obtain treatment and support when trying to change unhealthy behavior patterns. Going it alone is often impossible and support is so helpful in recognizing and alleviating the deep shame that is often a component of addiction.
We seek familiarity. Anyone who can see family patterns being passed down through the generations can recognize how this plays out. Sometimes familiar feels like it's right, even if it's unhealthy. People sometimes form relationships with unhealthy partners because of the familiarity of the behaviors they experience. We know how to deal with the behaviors and personality traits we know, the unknown can create anxiety simply because it's unfamiliar, not necessarily because it bad and sometimes even if it's much better.
Wisdom as the antidote. Proverbs is continually juxtapositioning wisdom with folly. Wisdom is not only knowing better, it's the application of that knowledge. A dog will continue to go back to it's vomit unless it can be convinced that the steak it's heard about is far better. If the dog has never tried steak, it might hesitate. The dog might say- My vomit I know, this steak I do not. But taking the courage to step out of it's comfort zone, seek out something better, (rather than what is easily accessable) and trying something unfamiliar breaks the cycle. This cycle of taking in, over and over the same old thing with no change and no benefit just creates more pain. We too can break the negative cycles and patterns we find ourselves in. Those cycles only hurt us or those we care about rather than bring change, renewal and growth.
Is there one small change you can bring to your life or your relationships? Something that seems like an unhealthy pattern? I challenge you to find one small change you can make in a pattern that doesn't serve you well.