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The Secret to Breaking Out of Our Most Destructive Habits

All of us occasionally become the angry, unpleasant, depressed, reactive people we don’t want to be. So what happens in the brain that scatters all our good intentions?

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Education theorists consider novelty a primary motivator to learn. The joy of learning is apparent in infants and young children, to whom everything is novel, but even with advancing age, humans feel more alive when learning. Fortunately, as adults, we can invent our own novelty, and the most effective way to do that is by continually developing new habits and skills, while sharpening whatever old ones we deem beneficial. These new habits and skills can be applied to ventures in athletics, scholarship, arts, or psychotherapy. Learning sometimes means rejecting the familiar, but more often it requires going beyond it. Learning to make big therapeutic changes that will endure over time means going beyond the  Christmas Carol model of practice and focusing instead on our smaller habits. In the long run, exorcising ghosts and experiencing catharsis didn’t change Patrick: it was the daily practice of behavior rooted in his deepest values that turned him into the loving and compassionate husband and father that he became.

Steven Stosny, PhD, is the director of Compassion Power. He’s the author of Love without Hurt  and the coauthor of How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking about It.  His forthcoming book isLiving and Loving after Betrayal: How to Heal from Emotional Abuse, Deceit, Infidelity, & Chronic Resentment.  Contact:


Steven Stosny, Ph.D., is the director of Compassion Power and author of Love without Hurt: Turn Your Resentful, Angry or Emotionally Abusive Relationship into a Compassionate, Loving One.
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