Spinning Tales About Our Unhealthy Habits
We tell white lies to ourselves and to others about our unhealthy habits-maximizing the benefits of our unhealthy habits and minimizing their risks and harms. We become "spin doctors"-distorting our perceptions to keep us in our comfort zones and avoid the risk of change.
Our emotional needs shape how we perceive the benefits, risks and harms-maximizing the benefits of the unhealthy habit and minimizing the risks and harms. Telling white lies to ourselves, we stay in our comfort zone-protecting ourselves from thinking that we are putting our health at risk or self-inflicting any harm. In effect, we often spin tales about how our unhealthy habit is more of a solution (e.g. smoking to relieve stress) than a problem (e.g. nicotine addiction).
Motivation to stay the same = Resistance to change
"I enjoy drinking alcohol to relax" = "I don't want to feel stressed out"
Can you think of someone who has a problem with an unhealthy habit but views it as a solution?
What about coming closer to home. Do you have any unhealthy habit that you view more as a solution than a problem?
View your resistance as a force to go with and redirect, rather than a force to be broken down. Otherwise, you'll be boxing or wrestling with yourself.
Learn how to U-turn your emotional resistance into effective motivation. Like marital arts, go with the force that you have…. And redirect it in a healthy direction.
Resistance to change arises from how you (and your loved ones) view:
- The benefits of your unhealthy habit (the comfort zone).
- Versus the risk and harms of your unhealthy habit (the risk zone).
Explore Your Views about Benefits, Risks and Harms
The following exercise may help you explore your views about the benefits of your unhealthy habit versus the risk and harms of your unhealthy habits. What keeps you in your comfort zone? What makes you avoid the risk zone?
The Benefits of Your Unhealthy Habit
On a scale of 0-10 (zero = not important and 10= very important), what score would you give for the benefits of your unhealthy habit?
Benefits score =
If you gave a low score, you may be getting ready to change. Or it means that you have under-estimated the importance of your comfort zone.
If you gave a high score, you need to understand more about the benefits about staying the same so that you can work on lowering this score.
The Risk and Harms of Your Unhealthy Habit
On a scale of 0-10 (zero = not important and 10= very important), what score would you give to the risks of your unhealthy habit?
Risk score =
If you gave a low score, you are down playing or minimizing the risks of your unhealthy habits and are not ready to change.
If you gave a high score, you are getting ready to change. If not, you are giving a score that might apply to others but not yourself.
Benefits of White Lies
We all tell white lies to ourselves in terms of how we view or perceive the benefits, risks and harms about our unhealthy habits. Sometimes, we are not even aware of these white lies. These white lies serve very important functions: 1. It keeps us in our comfort zone
2. It stops us from beating ourselves up about what we are doing to our health
3. It protects from negative feelings about the consequences of unhealthy habits
Courage to Face Our White Lies
It takes courage to face our
white lies. Confronting our white lies can
make us feel like we are fighting ourselves
with the pros and cons of change. But there
is a gentler way to go beyond our white
lies. Before even trying to change, we need
to recognize, understand and lower our emotional
resistance to change before we even attempt
to increase our motivation.