Lesson 1 of 7 - free your true Self to guide you

Bad Habits: Why
We Can't Stop

By Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Staff Writer

in Yahoo News - 12/13/08

The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/gwc/news/badhabits.htm

 Updated  01-23-2015

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      This article in a widely-viewed Web news source is a classic example of "scientific" and media ignorance and misinformation. The author and the cited "experts" aren't aware of the universal reality of personality subselves, and try to explain why irrational and harmful ("bad") habits persist in average people. 

      From 36 years' clinical experience, I propose that epidemic failure to break "bad habits" is strong evidence of normal people being unaware they are ruled by well-meaning ''false selves.'' Self-improvement Lesson 1 in this nonprofit Web site provides a practical way to empower your wise resident true Self, and control or end harmful habits and attitudes like self neglect.  

      Note my comments after the article. The links and hilights here are mine.

- Peter Gerlach, MSW


Killing Ourselves

A study by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that avoidable behaviors like cigarette use, poor diet and lack of exercise were the underlying cause of half of the deaths in the United States in the year 2000. Deaths cause by:

Tobacco: 435,000
Inactivity and bad eating: 400,000
Alcohol consumption: 85,000
SOURCE: March 10, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association

It might seem a total wonder that a smoker won't quit after hearing that puffing away is a leading cause of death, or that an obese person can't shed a few pounds after learning that lethal ailments loom for the overweight.

But scientists have come up with a host of reasons why humans stick to bad habits, and they are zeroing in on what to do about it. Among the reasons:

  • Innate human defiance.

  • Need for social acceptance

  • Inability to truly understand the nature of risk.

  • Individualistic view of the world and the ability to rationalize unhealthy habits.

  • Genetic predisposition to (alcohol) addiction.

You'd think people were on a one-track mission to self-destruct rather than desiring immortality.

"We have found that people aren't changing their behaviors," said Cindy Jardine of the University of Alberta. "But it's not because they haven't gotten the information that these are big risks." She added, "We tend to sort of live for now and into the limited futureónot the long term."

Killer knowledge

In a recent study, a group led by Jardine surveyed 1,200 people in Alberta, Canada in 1994 and again in 2005 about what they perceived to be risky behaviors. Many of the participants ranked lifestyle behaviors, such as smoking, drinking and sun tanning, as more dangerous than ozone depletion and chemical pollution.

In a related study that wrapped up this year, the scientists asked groups of indigenous Canadians why they ranked behaviors dangerous or not.

For instance, when asked about drinking and driving, most participants mentioned that you could hurt yourself or somebody else. If people know cigarettes can kill them or drinking and driving could be lethal, logic suggests they might quit it. Yet even with this knowledge, Jardine said, people continue to undertake these lifestyle risks.

Everybody's doing it

Jardine suggests several reasons for the contrary findings. For one, when a behavior is socially accepted or even considered desirable people tend to reconcile the fact that it's bad for them with the idea that "everybody's doing it," she said.

"I know this is bad for me but in social circles this makes me more accepted," Jardine said of the common reasoning. "It ends up being something people rationalize one way or another. And it's often easier to rationalize it in favor of trying to fit into your social group."

Addiction in Your Genes

Vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse has been located to a particular gene.

One way of making it okay to smoke like a chimney or eat like a pig is with individual experiences that support your action. For instance, you could say, "It hasn't hurt me yet," or, "My grandmother smoked all her life and lived to be 90."

In 2004, Jardine found that stress moved past cigarette smoking as the most dangerous habit.

"Most of us wear our stress as a badge of honor these days," Jardine said. So rather than thinking about stress as causing physical damage to your body and perhaps hurting family relationships, "people often boast of their stress as a success."

Risky interpretations

Typically the likelihood of contracting a disease or dying from a substance or activity is reported numerically as a percentage or ratio [see The Odds of Dying].

Ellen Peters of the University of Oregon has found that people who are better at processing numbers look at the same information differently than people not as number-minded, who tend to rely more on fear than actual hard evidence. Being afraid of cancer could drive their decisions on whether or not to smoke or the importance of treatment for particular cancers. It comes down to emotions, which Peters suggests act as guiding lights in choices.

That's one reason she thinks the "truth" campaign by the American Legacy Foundation and other anti-cigarette campaigns have been so effective. The truth ads show gruesome images such as a bleeding brain or inflamed heart with text stating cigarettes as the cause. One video ad shows a human-size rat walking up from a subway station and then collapsing on the sidewalk with a sign about how cigarettes contain rat poison.

The Truth Hurts ... and Helps

A study by the American Legacy Foundation showed that 22 percent of the overall decline in youth smoking from 2000 to 2002 was attributable to their "truth" campaign.

Social and physical environments also play large roles in fueling poor habits. For example, if you perceive that all of your friends are staying up all night, baking in the sun every day at the beach or taking multiple smoke breaks during work, this will affect whether you also take part in the activities.

Couch potatoes might be glued to the TV by external factors more than a lack of desire to be healthy.  We tell people they need to become physically active, but in certain neighborhoods if you get out and go for a walk you could be putting yourself in harms way from either traffic that's not well controlled or other kinds of things like violence in your neighborhood," said Andrea Gielen of Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Coming up with successful pro-health campaigns requires more research and multiple strategies, experts say. "There's no single strategy or single bullet. We're not going to be able to find a vaccine for healthy behavior," Gielen said. "We have to be more creative. We have to have different kinds of partners and work with many different folks."

+ + +

      This brief YouTube video offers perspective on what you just read and the comments that follow. The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons in thus site: I've reduced that to seven.


      I believe the author's observation about "scientists zeroing in" on the cause of "bad habits" despite "knowing better" is misleading. None of the reasons cited proposes the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle and the underlying public and media denial as even a possible cause. From 36 years' research with over 1000 average people, I propose there IS a "single strategy" to reduce bad (self-harmful) behavior: Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy ("parts work"). 

      This article and the cited professionals miss the core problems underlying "bad habits" - epidemic shame (I'm no good, unlovable, and worthless) and resulting self-neglect ("I don't care about being healthy - I don't deserve it"). Excessive shame and related psychological wounds result from early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse ("trauma"). Most (wounded) people, media producers, educators, and legislators, deny, minimize, or ignore this disturbing reality, so far.

       The article's cited reasons for self-neglect have some merit. In my opinion, they are all symptoms of the unacknowledged real reason - inherited [psychological wounds + unawareness]. For example: "innate human defiance" is often a symptom of a normal personality subself called the ''Rebel.'' Chronic focus on short-term gratification is a common symptom of false-self dominance. For thought-provoking perspective, see this UCLA research summary after you finish this.

      The exception is the genetic (inherited) predisposition in some people to metabolize ethyl alcohol into pleasurable chemicals. I believe a larger reason for compulsive over-use of harmful chemicals (including sugars and fats) is to self-medicate against intolerable inner pain that begins with early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse.. Do you eat "comfort foods"?

      The comment about "couch potatoes" being influenced by "external" (social and environ mental) factors" is a classic example of lay and professional people's avoidance of looking for the true reason for persistent "bad habits" - inherited psychological wounds and ignorance.

      The best that can be said about this well-meant Web article and underlying flawed research is that it notes that reputable professionals (a) acknowledge the widespread phenomenon of harmful habits, and (b) are seeking the reasons for it.

      How do you feel about what you just read?

      For more perspective, see these other research summaries relating to inherited psychological wounds.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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