It is not a very common skill to be able to undo a habit. It pays off to think a bit about the wisdom of this design of a routine to answer a need on the front end. We create a perceptual assumption by training a habit. As we train them, routines are designed to disappear underneath whatever our level of sensory ability happens to be. The advantage is that it becomes handy to meet a stimulus without having to design our response anew each time. We can focus on other things that are more important.
The disadvantage is that our sensory ability is dulled by the use of habits. Habits become innate by design. The danger is we no longer register a successfully trained habit on our radar as an activity. You can no longer sense what you have trained yourself to do automatically. People commonly find themselves doing things thoughtlessly that they did not intend to do or seemed to have forgotten about possible consequences. The habit “goes off” whenever the stimulus is offered on the outside, or the thought is “thunked” on the inside.
There is a significant advantage to this design inside of us concerning habitual routines. We are designed this way so we can add a new habit on top of the previous. This is known as a “behavior chain” and is handy in skill building. It is even possible to train new perceptual assumptions. The more you repeat a habit, the more ingrained and innate it becomes. The saying is: “Practice Makes Perfect.”
Especially with an entrenched routine, sometimes insight is the only way to rid yourself of its limitations; to find a new way to provide for the need or challenge “the need for the need.” Thinking skills by Edward de Bono, making art and using Alexander Technique are the only ways I know to address these significants challenges humans all face in life.
Most people never think of subtracting what is in the way as a useful strategy, just as lateral thinking techniques or other indirect means such as Alexander Technique or art therapy are not usually the first order of preference. People most often assume they must train yet another habit to take the place of whatever routine is not working as intended. Pretty soon we have so many routines, it’s tricky to pick the right one in the right instant.
Thinking skills pop us free out of habitual assumptions if they are used, just as Alexander Technique has the ability to free us from our kinesthetic sensory habits. But we must remember to use these tools to give them a chance to work and gain their advantages. By their nature, these tools of innovation run contrary to habit. However, the remembering must be assigned to be “cued” in some portion of a routine for these tools to be allowed to work as intended. Most of us miss or pass by this instance of optional choice.
In Alexander Technique, the best time to assign it’s use is as you begin to go into action – or right before action. This is because as soon as we think of doing something, we are already preparing for it. Right before action we have a moment of “veto power.” This is a built-in instant to decide the unique means of how we are actually going to perform the action and craft it uniquely to the situation.
In parallel, a useful cue for using thinking skills is before a decision is made or perhaps needs to be designed, or when you hear that “this is the only choice we have.” There is ALWAYS another choice – and perhaps it’s a better one. Usually, multiple routines and temptations are in charge of coercing us otherwise, going off underneath our ability to perceive coercive and manipulative routines at work. It’s similar to a computer that gets overloaded with programs running in the background. If we then attempt to add in our intentional goals there is the danger of losing what we were trying to accomplish in a “systems crash.”
Best to “clear the decks” in preparation by using a little tool such as Alexander Technique that subtracts unnecessary routines and unites our intention – at the start of an action. Or take a moment to use a thinking skill or other reflective advantage.
Supposedly, we have a “right brain” power of non-linear integration skills – and we have “left brain” reasoning powers. What if both of these aren’t good enough? We’ve got insight!
Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to purposefully illicit insight, even if you had to follow indirect means to get insights? Supposedly, insights happen “by accident” and not on purpose. Well, that’s what happens with a little creative thinking….and using Alexander Technique…and sometimes other experiences that can put you in a state of “flow.”
Please let me know if there are other perceptual worlds or disciplines which have this effect for you – because I’d love to take them for the ride they deserve personally!