What Drives Unwanted Behavior?Behavior change can be hard, especially when you want to change something that you have been doing in a certain way for a really long time. When it’s time to switch things up, many people think they can just make a change by “muscling through” or “white knuckling it” through the proverbial 21 days it takes to change a habit. The 21-days-to-establish-a-habit model seems like a magical cure if you can hold out that long. But for many, the 21-day mark proves disappointing. That’s because holding your breath and forcing yourself to do things differently only leads to a huge inhale and a sigh of relief at the end of 3 weeks . . . . and a return to the “familiar” and “safe” way you’ve always done things. (I know there are some who SWEAR by the 21-day change model. This post isn’t for you! Google-on, my friend! Google on! *wink*) The truth is that for most of us changing our behavior takes much more than a simple decision to make a change. Lasting change requires a clear understanding of the emotional motivation that drives unwanted behavior – or that prevents you from doing what you want to do. At The Center for Healthy Relationships, we specialize in helping you understand the “little t” traumas that built the foundation for your unwanted behaviors.
What Are “little t” Traumas & How Do They Influence You Today?What are “little t” traumas? In essence, they are the spoken or unspoken “rules” which were created for you by “powerful others” in your life that did not fit with your basic needs. The trauma is usually silent – a personal experience that happens inside of you while you are interacting within a relationship. The “rule” is the set of behaviors you developed to keep yourself safe in relation to the person creating the rule. Here are a few examples:
– Were you told you had to clean your plate (regardless of whether or not you felt full)? This little trauma, repeated over time, will cause you to feel guilty about not finishing food in a way that can lead to health issues.
– Were you taught to “share” or “be nice” even in the face of insult by others? This little trauma, repeated over time, can cause you to struggle to maintain your own voice in relationships – leading to unhealthy relationship patterns.
– Even in adult relationships, the little trauma of repeatedly having your needs disregarded can lead to a habit of being afraid to voice your needs at all.Big “T” traumas are those sudden, unexpected, life-altering events that usually happen during a discrete period of time. Some examples of a big “T” trauma include: being assaulted, being the victim of a natural disaster, or being in a car accident. Reminders of these traumas are unmistakable when they come to your awareness: you know what is bothering you and why. Little “t” traumas are different from big “T” traumas because the effects of little “t” trauma are insidious. The rules created for you while little “t” traumas are occurring are repeated, unconscious and (usually) attached to some consequence if you break the rules. Many times, unwanted behaviors are attached to these little traumas, so trying to change the behavior requires that you investigate the emotions surrounding the development of the behavior you wish to change to find the beliefs that feed the emotions. Once you shift the emotions by eliminating irrelevant beliefs, behavior change comes much more easily.