Discarding old habits

Several of our habits spark regret and resentment. We wish to be free of them – to discard them. And yet, this isn’t easy.

Everybody has a favourite jacket from the past – one that served us well. We used this jacket for several years against biting cold and niggling drizzles. It accompanied us through cherished moments, which have rubbed off on it. But now, this jacket is too old – its colour has faded, its zipper doesn’t work well, and its lower left pocket has a hole.

Even though we know that the jacket ought to be discarded, translating this into action isn’t easy. We are attached to it. It continues to hang in the wardrobe, seldom used, along with other clothes.

Most regretful behaviours – getting outraged when our plans do not work out, blurting out something inappropriate or drinking more than we would wish to, are learned.  Somewhere in the past, often stretching back to our childhood, they helped us cope with a difficult situation. That is why they exist in the first place.

They are the old jackets in our closet.

Resentment and suppression stows them away in the cupboards of our brain. And sure enough, the next time we open these doors, they spring out.

The easiest way to let go of our old things is to thank them. Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant, suggests that we pick up the old jacket, thank it by speaking out loud and discarding it respectfully. Gratitude gives us closure from guilt and sentiment.

“Thank you, dear jacket. You have served me well.”

This is as true of behaviours and habits we no longer need.

Inspiration: An interview with Gabor Mate

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