Daily Herald May 28, 1994
A habit is something you do without thinking. You let your mind act on past patterns of behavior, instead of focusing on the present. Habits are useful at times. People driving cars with standard transmissions don't have to think about shifting or depressing the clutch, thanks to habit. But other habits can be irritating, or dangerous.
I was off work last Friday. I left my house to go to the Mall. But I found myself driving to Victoria Union Hospital where I work. I didn't plan to go there, but part of me said to myself, "Go to work", and I drove there automatically. Only when I counteracted my automatic thinking by saying, "Hey, I don't want to go here. It's my day off!" did I realize my mistake and turn my car around. This irritating habit delayed me enjoying my day off. But, other habits can cause more than minor delays.
Anger is a problem when it becomes a habit. When we do something out of habit, we don't think about what we're doing. We just react and do it. And when we react with anger, we usually make things worse. When anger is a habit, you have less understanding of your anger. Your anger can take off on its own and quickly turn into abuse and aggression.
Anger results when something doesn't happen that we'd like to happen or something happens we don't like happening. Anger can range from mild disappointment, to extreme rage. What anger becomes, and what we do with anger, depends on whether were in charge and recognize what we say to ourselves about the anger-producing situation. But if we allow anger to become a habit, we are no longer aware of what we are doing. What we say to ourselves, i.e. self-talk or thoughts, can easily become habits.
If we've been hurt in the past, we may assume we'll be hurt again and then, of course, we will become angry. If we choose to believe that someone doesn't care for us, of course we'll feel hurt and angry. And when these negative thoughts about ourselves, our spouses, our children, or people who work with or live with, become habits, we find ourselves angry at them before we even START to think about WHY we are angry.
Anger as habit doesn't deal with the present, but the past. But unless you look at your present anger, the moment it occurs, your mind goes back, out of habit, picks out the worst related experience of the past, and then behaves as if THAT is what happened. As a result, your anger will be out of proportion to what has really happened.
Once we give in to an angry thought, it tends to preoccupy us, again and again, like a broken record. The longer it plays, the angrier we get. The only way to break a habit is to choose to wake up and say "Hey, what am I doing?" just as I did when I found myself en route to the hospital last Friday. This involves getting in touch with yourself, not as you believe you should feel or do, but as you can actually are feeling and are choosing to do.
We can change our feelings. We do so by changing the stupid thoughts and beliefs we've built up in our minds, as a habit, over a long period of time. We do so by refusing to being seduced by past hurts or anger, and focusing realistically, and positively, on exactly what is happening around us right now.