The art of changing negative behavioral patterns

The first ten years of my adult life were marked by my immense personal struggle to overcome negative and self-destructive behavior patterns. That was the foundational battle. On the surface I just wanted to be a person who had more of the good stuff: more success; more money; more sex; more girls; more fun times; more certainty of who I was; more meaning when I woke in the morning. I pursued the more while not understanding that the more was predicated on the less: less voices in my head telling me that I was wrong and stupid; less times that I lied because of my personal insecurities; less horrible mistakes when dealing with people on a personal basis; less situations where I sabotaged myself due to a fear of success; less craving for acknowledgement of my personal brilliance; less avoidance of personal responsibilities such as paying bills on time.

Less determination to be special.

You’re not special. There are over 6 billion people on this planet. How the hell can you believe that you are special with those numbers? You’re an ant. No, really, I’m being serious. You’re the equivalent of an ant.

My mother told me constantly during my entire childhood that I was special. That I was brilliantly intelligent and better than everyone around me. Short of actual physical abuse I don’t know what is worse for a kid. I reckon that this sort of thing is the mental equivalent of child abuse. The explosion in so-called genders is simply a desperate attempt by young people to be special in the modern world. So too is the very public embrace of homosexuality and transsexualism.

So when things didn’t start turning out that special for me I sought to produce the specialness by other and artificial means. I lied to exaggerate my meager and very occasional accomplishments. I invented accomplishments that had no basis in reality. The very first time I remember doing this was when I was 11 years old. I told all of my classmates that a famous cricket player was going to come to my birthday party. It must be said that the fact that this was untrue gave me no little anxiety, although I became so caught up in the deception that I was more than a little disappointed when he didn’t turn up on the actual day. No doubt my sincere disappointment lent some credibility to my outrageous claim.

I am able to empathise with people who lead miserable lives due to my own experiences with quiet and daily misery. But I am not able to empathise with those who do nothing about it. For it is in the doing that separates us, a somewhat ironic situation when you think about it.

Remember, you have to make a man of yourself. And a part of that is building a personality that will enable you to function in the world and be a productive member of your community.

How this is done is a simple matter yet difficult process of daily battles with your own behavior patterns. First you have to identify those patterns; you cannot make any changes if you do not identify and acknowledge the ways in which you habitually sabotage yourself. These behaviors are not secret or mysterious, you can find them very easily indeed.

They are the behaviors that each and every time you make them, whether involuntarily or not, you hate yourself afterwards just that little bit more.

This is the worst part of a life of misery that is devoid of meaning. Every day you hate yourself just that little bit more than you did the day before.

Once you identify and classify your unwanted behaviors then you need to stop doing them. This will be very difficult. You cannot replace something with nothing so an effective way of achieving this is to replace each behavior with its opposite. So with lying I chose brutal honesty. With exaggeration I chose self-deprecation. There were many more.

In the beginning you will have very few wins. It can be extremely demoralising. You need to celebrate each win in a small way. Give yourself small rewards while being careful to not blow this out of proportion thereby creating an entirely new way of sabotaging yourself. It’s a minefield of behavioral traps out there. Leaving town and starting somewhere new where nobody knows you is  a very good idea. It’s called a fresh start. Pick your new friends carefully. Surround yourself with people who are positive. You will discover that your old friends are mostly just like your negative self. Why would it be otherwise?

Study the behavior of people around you whom you admire and who are stable and successful and try to emulate their behavior. Pick one behavior pattern from each person and attempt to make it your own behavior pattern. You are in the process of rebuilding your personality while taking apart the old personality.

Your ego will not like what it going on. This is literal death to your ego and it will make great attempts to sabotage you. Be very aware of this; it is dangerous and much more crafty than you are.

Can you see why most people fail at this? You need constant discipline and awareness. It can be exhausting. Make sure you get lots of sleep. Eat well and exercise. Focus on each interaction with a person as an opportunity to get better at being a person that you like.

It took me about 10 years to achieve my goal of liking who I was. But even many years later I occasionally discover a long defeated behavior pattern rising to the surface like a toxic bubble from the depths of a fetid pool. In such moments I recognise my former negative behavior with a wry smile for a long defeated adversary who has returned in a pitiful attempt to reclaim a former battlefield. I don’t mind the intrusion; it helps keep me on my toes because it reminds me that the battle only ends when you die, and even then who really knows for sure?

5 thoughts on “The art of changing negative behavioral patterns

  1. This is probably my favorite post so far of yours. What you describe reminds me of what Vox Day called Gamma Male behavior. I’ve been guilty of those behavioral traits myself at various times in my life. And if those patterns are imprinted in your personality from childhood, it truly is a lifelong struggle to suppress them, requiring the vigilance of a recovering alcoholic.

    Funny thing is, once you learn to identify those negative characteristics within yourself, you suddenly notice them everywhere around you.

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  2. Completely agree with you. People get depressed because they lie to themselves and their friends and family allow them to lie to themselves. The opposite of depression is not happiness. Happiness is fleeting. The opposite of depression is contentment, being content with yourself and your circumstances, treating both success and failure with equanimity, always staying busy and focusing on the process (or your duty) and not on the consequences.

    (Not my original thoughts, borrowed from the Bhagwad Gita, a 5,000-year old Hindu text.)

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  3. Pingback: Linkage: 12 June, 2018 #TheTriggering » Cynical Libertarian Society

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