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Why Do Old Habits Die Hard, Examining Maladaptive Behaviours

I have said it before, and I will say it again, life is teaming with paradoxes!!

I think one of my favourite paradoxes of all time, is the concept that most, if not all current maladaptive behaviour patterns, were at one time, adaptive. In fact, this is the reinforcement that is required to effectively build, shape, and fortify the very habits, beliefs, and behaviours that we want to change!

For example, if I learn as a young child that my parents really only want me around when I’m happy (this will be subconscious of course), by interacting with me more and giving me more rewards and opportunities to engage in activities I like, then I will learn to hide other mood states. I will learn over time to only express happiness, and I will start shutting down all other emotions. On the surface this appears to be adaptive.

Certain behaviours can start to become maladaptive.

Yet, as I get older, and I get into my own relationships with friends and romantic partners, the suppressing of negative emotions will start to become maladaptive. My friends and my romantic partners might actually get upset with the fact that I’m always happy, because inevitably I will start to do whatever it takes to make them happy, I will, in effect, become a people pleaser. When this occurs, I start to put my needs on the back burner, will attend to the needs of others, and will still often pretend to be quite happy because that is the emotion that is expected.

This is a problem because, like physics, psychology has its own laws of engineering. When I suppress my own needs, and I’m always attending to the needs of my partner, there will be an equal and opposite reaction. My partner will end up having to be the more assertive and decision-making partner in the relationship. This will start to create more and more pressure on that partner, and since they will be unable to please my needs, essentially because they have no idea what they are and I probably don’t even know what they are either, my partner will become more and more frustrated.

Maladaptive behaviours can essentially sink relationships.

So, in this way, a maladaptive behaviour is essentially sinking my relationships, (and will also likely set me up to date people who will take advantage of me), and leave me unsatisfied in life. Now, of course, I can create some SMART goals to help, but first I must understand how this family trauma affected my upbringing and my beliefs about “The Self”. So again, to effectively create this positive change in my life I must understand where my maladaptive behaviour patterns come from because I must change my self-beliefs in order to create sustained change throughout the rest of my life.

As we said on the farm, “Old habits die hard. Make sure you create really positive ones.”

Come heal, grow and create together


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