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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Habits August 24, 2013

Habits are acquired behaviors that tend to occur once established without thinking about them each time.
It's easy to think of nail-biting as a "bad habit" and drug addiction has been called a "habit." 
We have many cultural habits that ease our way in our own world, but may look strange to a visitor.
Hand shaking or air kissing are examples of those. People in Europe usually shake hands when greeting friends, acquaintances or even strangers or kiss each other on both cheeks. In Switzerland they air kiss three times! Not so much here.

Fingernail biting or hair twisting are individual habits that may annoy an onlooker but do not have another effect. Greeting habits, such as hugging each other, kissing and saying "I love you" at the end of a conversation often are so expected we think nothing of them, except when the greeting is missing.

When a habit we expect to receive--without thinking about it-- is missing it is experienced as a loss whether it is a phone call from a distant relative, a peck on the cheek from a departing loved one or even if the screen door doesn't slam as the teenager departs.

We immediately wonder what has changed and why. We put intentionality into the missing behavior and we grieve.
It's not usually the end of a life grief, but it hurts. My first mother-in-law used to say that a broken pinky hurts as much as a broken thigh bone. Luckily I don't know if that is true, but she often felt slighted by some behavior of her only son that she expected was a habit, which she felt he omitted when he married.
What can we do to replace the feelings of loss? How to get on with life after a series of small and large losses?
Some of us read--or watch films or television shows-- which portray others who have experienced losses and resolve them successfully by the end of the program.Some of us look for other people to add to our lives who will provide the missing connections. Some of go out of our way to support others who are grieving because we understand how they feel and some of us replace the missing habits with others such as overeating, oversleeping, alcohol consumption or medication dependency  to soothe the pain of loss. What works for you?

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