Thursday, October 14, 2010

Old Habits Die Hard

All of us have problems changing our habits. Replacing a bad habit with a good one often involves reconstructing our lives.

Career criminals have it harder than most of us.

In a blog post last month Dr. Stanton Samenow showed why career criminals, no matter how much they want to mend their ways, tend to fall back into their old patterns. Link here. (Thanks to Ari Mendelson for forwarding this to me.)

Dr. Samenow writes: “Old patterns do not die or even diminish without great effort. The scope of the task of change is far more all encompassing then they ever imagined. "What do you have that compares to cocaine?" one offender asked. He was referring not just to the drug but to the entire way of life that drugs offer -- the people, the places, the thrill of the deal, and the other illicit activities that are part of the world of drugs and crime. He found that working at a day to day job, trying to make ends meet financially, attending meetings, and living an ordinary life was excruciatingly boring. Initially very sincere about change, he had done well by any standard. But he gave it all up and returned to crime, eventually getting arrested and returning to confinement with new charges and probation violations.”

He continues to explain that the same rule applies to weight loss: “Perhaps an analogy is a person who is enthused about losing weight. He readily sheds a few pounds. Then he sees what weight reduction that is enduring requires, namely an entire new set of eating habits. Only with the offender, he is confronted with changing an entire way of life. This is doable, but it is accomplished only with prolonged effort -- not doing things he wants to do and doing plenty of things he does not want to.”

Change, real consequential change, whether it is about moving out of the world and life of crime or out of the world and life of weight gain, requires work. It takes more than a change of attitude or a boost to your self-esteem.

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