Steven Stosny

The Secret to Breaking Out of Our Most Destructive Habits

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorite stories, as it’s been for millions of others since it was written in 1843. Who doesn’t start sniffling when reading this classic tearjerker about Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold, bitter old man dragged—by the ghosts of his past, present, and potential future—on a terrifying midnight journey of self-discovery, from which he emerges transformed and redeemed? Most people love movies about driven, selfish people who, struck by the life-altering experience of sudden love or near loss, eventually see the light and blossom into life-affirming menschen. Miraculous conversion stories appeal to the wishful thinker in all of us. We want to believe that hitting bottom—being forced into genuine awareness of one’s bad behavior and experiencing true remorse about it—is the key to transformational change, a comforting daydream shared by many therapists.

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