AS WE GROW FROM BIRTH, THE ENVIRONMENT SHAPES OUR EMOTIONAL THOUGHTS CREATING PATTERNS OF THINKING AND BEHAVIOR, (“The Secret Life of the Brain” Rawlence, C, 2002)
Water from the Mossy Cascade in New York, along with other aspects of the environment, shapes the terrain as it travels through the Adirondacks and the Keen Valley to the Ausable River and to Lake Champlain. Similarly our daily reactions are built on much of what we have encountered in the past and how we have learned to react to different situations. We are initially shaped by our heritage (genes), but as we grow our environment shapes who we are. As we go through our daily interactions many situations cause emotional reactions. The results of our reactions may lead to stress. Stress can be either good or bad. For instance when we get stressed because of making an accomplishment, that kind of stress is good because it increases our abilities and makes us try harder. On the other hand stress that results from family or employment bickering is not good and sometimes causes negative reactions such as anger, isolation, depressed moods and substance abuse. Both types of stress can lead to negative thinking; Although stress that results from disappointment, arguing or loss can lead to more pronounced mood changes. In addition to stress affecting our moods, stress also affects our body through our nervous system. How many times have we had headaches or butterflies in our stomach? The expression of “a pain in the neck” is not unfounded. Stress can cause pains in different parts of our body, loss of blood flow to certain areas of the body and lack of blood flow to others. Stress can also be caused by what we eat and in turn can encourage us to eat certain foods when we experience stress.
Much of our stress comes from ways we have learned to handle situation. Our past experiences lead us to react in certain ways when a situation arises. Many of our reactions are based on subtle messages we have received from significant others and how we have learned to deal with life in the past. These reactions continue to mold our habits. Many times we repeat similar reactions to different challenges in life only to find that they don’t work any better than they did before. One reason we keep making the same mistake is because we are comfortable with that solution and our remedies to the situation, not wanting to forgo our established behaviors. By this point we have developed certain life-style habits which we continually fall back on to solve the problems, only to find out that these problems increase as our habits continue because we are now less interested in solving the initial situation and more interested in following the self-destructive behavioral of our accepted life-style. These life-style habits can also lead to substance abuse or other types of addiction.
This pattern can be broken. The first remedy in this undertaking is to admit that we have problems and that we want to change our thinking and behavior. That is probably the hardest obstacle to overcome, and we may revisit this obstacle several times through our changing life-style. The next step is to understand how our habits and self-defeating behaviors have originated and how they have affected our lives. This is also a hard step because it requires us to admit past mistakes, misleading views and problems. The third step is to start working on our desired goals that lead to our future expectations. There are of course several other steps to recovery. These steps may wax and wane while we develop a new way of life and a positive outlook. This is a normal progression of learning and development. During this process a positive outlook needs to be established and positive effort is key to success.