It has occurred to me that humans have a capacity to make changes in their lives through a technique we often accidentally use to our detriment. I mean, all things that our bodies and minds do are natural, proper occurrences that develop through evolution in order to help us survive. When we don't understand those processes, we tend to let them use themselves like the path of water streaming downhill with no choice of direction beyond the easiest path at each and every moment.
An example is our muscular structure. When we don't understand how our structural muscles work, we will stand/sit in ways that cause them damage, or weakens them until they are no longer able to do their 'jobs'. This creates situations when our strength, or supporting, muscles must do the structural work and that is how they get injured, giving us chronic pain, and sometimes disability. I learned this the hard way after my third child and my hips and back were in agony for years after. A physiotherapist introduced me to the structural muscles I had allowed to weaken by not taking care of them throughout the 3 pregnancies and my recovery time. While I don't know if I'll ever get back to belly dancing fully, I am in a lot less pain these days, just by simply working on strengthening those muscles.
Mentally, we have all been introduced to the concept of the Law of Attraction. I have, some years ago, posted a blog entry on my thoughts regarding the negative use of this Law. I concluded that this is a capacity, a tool, that can be used like a knife. Itself, it is not a positive nor negative thing. It can be used for useful, practical things, or it can be abused to harm others. If the Law of Attraction is not used consciously, it can bring great harm without intention, simply because we have no understanding of what it is and how it is to be used. The long term effects can be great pain and agony. To fix the situation takes a lot of hard work and determination with the possibility that we may never get back in full what we lost.
So what is this capacity, this technique I started on about? I was first introduced to it through Anthony Robbins as Neuro-Associative Conditioning (NAC). I believe it has expanded and evolved into Neuro Linguistic Programming. In very simplistic terms, our brains use our emotions to link survival behaviours to muscle memory so that we don't have to actively think about whether to fight, flee or freeze. Our primal emotions are centered on our amygdala. This organ is the origin of our strongest emotions and our brain links these emotions to memories, behaviours, etc. without having to go through our filtering or judgement portions of our brains. Seriously, if we had to actually pause and think completely through what do with a bear charging towards us, weighing the pros and cons of each option, we'd have been extinct a LONG time ago!! NAC speeds up this process and gives us a conditioned response so we can survive long enough to make decisions that CAN be weighed and thought out.
I'm sure you can see this is leading into habits. Yes, NAC, if not understood can very much lead us astray. Humans are emotional creatures, and if NAC is allowed, we can become creatures of habit, too. Habits have this funny way of lasting long after they are no longer useful, and then we have to go through the process of identifying the habit and breaking the cycle of it. Habits can be as useful as handwashing, they can be detrimental such as imbibing in toxins (pick your poison!), or they can grow to such things as allowing ourselves to get involved with abusive relationships and avoiding helpful situations for reasons unknown (self-sabotage).
Examples of positive conditionings includes our responses to seeing an old friend, seeing our loving partner all decked out in our favourite outfit, the feeling of love when we are held by someone we trust and care for. We get excited or relax into a positive mindset. I recently experienced a situation where I have been struggling with self-confidence and stage fright that prevented me from singing loudly and thus reducing my ability to perform in front of others. I have been out of a medieval association (SCA) for over 10 years. I use to perform quite well in the SCA, but experiences over the last 10 years left me feeling shy and nervous. This last weekend I went to an event. By the third night of attending the bardic circle, I had gained all my old confidence back and managed to sing and talk myself hoarse. I had such a great time! All the positive feelings of performing amongst my friends and in the bardic circle filled me and left me refreshed and ecstatic!
The fastest way to break a negative habit is to actively and consciously set in a NAC that creates a positive habit, overriding the negative. Using our emotions, we can set in triggers to change our thoughts, our reactions and thus our actions in certain circumstances. Ingrained, strongly negative habits usually require an experienced professional to help us. However, simple, positive changes, we can do ourselves with some determination and basic understanding of NAC. This can (and SHOULD) be coupled with affirmations, visualization work, vision boards, etc. Putting ourselves into a strong positive emotion and then associating that emotion with a positive trigger and goal, can give us an easy way make constructive changes in our lives.
The trick with this tool is to recognize when NAC has been allowed to run rampant and unsupervised in our lives. Once we realize the triggers and our habitual responses to them, we are able to direct our choices and responses to what we want to see. We can become our own path's guide, instead of acting as the stream of water and taking the easiest route downhill.