In hypnotherapy, I see many different types of behavior. People often tell me stories about why they behave the way they do. The reasons are usually something that was done to them. They offer this as the excuse for why they behave the way they do, and why they are unable to change their own behavior.
It is a very human tendency to try to find explanations and excuses for your behavior. This is perfectly understandable. However, most people do not really understand what is driving their own behavior.
I was reminded of this today. I had a client come to see me who felt that she was always thinking of all the worst things that could happen. For example, if her husband was late coming home she would think "I know he's not dead, he's just a bit late, isn't he? I would have heard of that had been an accident". She would catastrophize endlessly about almost anything. Her explanation was because she was the third child of four. She had an elaborate theory of how the first child acted a certain way, and the second child acted a different way, and the third child acted in yet another way. And that was why she was behaving the way she was. In fact, she had an undiagnosed case of depression.
It is not uncommon for people to totally miss the real reason for why they do what they do. In therapy, I am more often interested in what people are not doing, than in what they are doing. I often tell my clients, "every coin has two sides".
Doing something to avoid doing something else
People will tell you for example that there are workaholics, that they have to be at work all the time, that they can't let go of the details. When I hear a story like this I always think to myself "and what are you trying to get away from?" A person who is a workaholic is not attracted to work. There are not simply trying to get a job done. What they are trying to do is to get away from emotional problems they have with their family. Being at work and gives them a reason for not dealing with their own emotional inadequacies. They are avoiding thoughts.
Many years ago I had a client who was a motorcycle racing champion. He told me that when he was a teenager, he would go for long rides on his motorbike. He said that when he was riding, and was coming up to a corner at speed, he had to focus totally on getting round the corner. There was no space in his mind for any other thought. He used the dangers of motorcycling to get his mind clear. It was not that he was attracted to motorcycling, it was the only way he knew to stop the constant nagging in his mind.
I also spoke to someone who had been a marathon runner. He told me that one of the attractions of marathon running was that at some point you get so tired that you have to focus totally on just getting through the next mile and the next mile. This forces you to concentrate on just getting one foot in front of the other. And it drives out any unwanted thoughts. The attraction is not the running or the winning. The attraction is having a break from the relentless feeling of emptiness, or doubt, or self-hatred.
I know a bridge player who has something similar. When she is sitting down to play bridge, she has to focus totally on the cards. Every hand is challenging, every hand is difficult and intricate. When she is playing in a tournament there is no space in her head for any other thoughts. That is why people become bridge addicts.
So think about what you do. Think about your own behaviors. And then think about the other side of the coin. Are you doing something not because you like it, but because it lets you avoid something else?
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