How to change in oneself a persistant behavior?!?

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somesortofvariant
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09 Sep 2021, 8:13 am

Has anyone managed to change a persistent behavior that seemed impossible to change? How did you do it?!?

Or is there a thing you are struggling with right now? What tactics are you trying?

I started to go into a bunch of details about my seemingly-impervious-to-change behavior that keeps making life hellish, but it was just too long...so I deleted. Instead, I will keep it to simple and wide-open questions...for now. :D



magz
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09 Sep 2021, 8:27 am

If the behavior is an unhealthy way of coping, it's useful to realize the underlying problem/need and think of healthier ways to adress it.


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blazingstar
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09 Sep 2021, 8:41 am

It depends on the kind of behavior.

It helps to know what the antecedent is or congruent behavior is. If you snack too much while watching TV, then stop watching TV and you will stop snacking

Replacement can work better than just quitting something. Say you want to stop smoking. Instead of smoking, replace it with another behavior such as walking, meditating, dancing, etc.


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somesortofvariant
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10 Sep 2021, 5:37 am

Thank y'all for the replies! Unfortunately, my persistent behavior is not quite like a standard habit to quit, although I guess it does officially qualify as a habit, and I guess it is a coping mechanism...

...but in some ways, it is like an attitude. In other ways, it is one of the things that makes me feel "not normal," and right now it seems impossible for me to learn how to be "normal."

Basically, when my partner expresses displeasure with me or with life, I can't take it. I try to act like I can, but my husband says I just act weird and not like normal people. I either turn resistant (i.e,"I didn't do anything wrong or it certainly was not my intent. You clearly are the one being unreasonable.") or I turn into a robot: I smile awkwardly and just parrot back what he is saying to demonstrate that I am being agreeable. Or I say nothing back because I don't want to be resistant or robot parrot-y. All of these 3 tactics fail. We have been through this thousands of times, and I can not figure out a way to act that conveys that I really do care and want things to be good. I get the impression that other people don't have to figure out a way to act.

And yet, it seems like I should be able to figure out a way to act that does not make things worse! But when I try to think about it, I just get white fuzz in the brain.



magz
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10 Sep 2021, 5:44 am

I'd recommend you contemplating my signature.
Being normal is not the goal. Being mentally healthy is.

Can your husband accept you the way you are - even if your needs and natural reactions are not typical?


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somesortofvariant
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11 Sep 2021, 6:14 am

magz wrote:
I'd recommend you contemplating my signature.
Being normal is not the goal. Being mentally healthy is.

Can your husband accept you the way you are - even if your needs and natural reactions are not typical?


Thanks. I had already noticed your signature and really appreciate the message. I certainly don't feel mentally healthy, and I am now wondering how much of the depression and anxiety stems from years of me attacking myself for simply being me, efforting to change things about myself that just won't change.

But then my mind goes into tail spins because I recognize that self-development and change are necessary components of a healthy and vibrant life. It seems I need to distinguish what I can and can not change about my behavior. Just thinking about it now, I feel my mind spinning out.

As for my husband, yes...he clearly can accept me since we have been together 25 years despite this ongoing problem. But it has gotten harder since we had kids 12 years ago. And when I hit perimenopause, I experienced what I now see as autistic burnout and everything just came to a head...which thankfully led to us learning about ASD.

We are suspecting he, too, is on the spectrum...and more classically so. I want to say back to him, "How do you know what normal is!?!" And yet, it is *obvious* that he has spends a lot of time thinking and observing neurotypical behavior and seeing it for what it is.

He is also way more sensitive in many, many ways. So I feel horrible for not YET being able to learn how to make these situations easier for him.

I think I am asking here: How does one practice and prepare a new way of acting? I have read of conscious masking, where people really practice and prepare to act a certain way in certain situations. And while most accounts I have read say this can lead to exhaustion, I want to at least be able to do it! It seems to me that my masking is mostly unconscious.



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11 Sep 2021, 6:36 am

It took me around 35 years of trying before I was able to finally able to get rid of my stimms. I did not know they were called stimms, but I knew I would be told off for them.

The problem I had was that apart from taking exceptionally great mental effort over prolonged periods of time, that when I overcame one stim, another different stim would take its place and when I finally conquored them all, that is when the real trouble started in the form of burnout, and serious burnouts as well.



magz
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11 Sep 2021, 7:10 am

In mental health, like on a plane, you need to help yourself before helping others.
To make your husband happier, you need to take care of yourself first. Otherwise, you'll spiral down into unhealthy relationship.
I so much relate to what you desccribe - having children is a real challenge for both me and my husband. I had a burnout and mental breakdown. He developed bulimia.
I found a wise therapist who teached me the approach that help us: boundaries. Even with the most loved ones. And yourself first. When things are breaking apart, adress your own needs first. It's not selfish. It's getting stable ground so you can help others instead of falling down with them.

I don't know how it relates to your situation but learning this approach let us survive very serious crises.


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Double Retired
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11 Sep 2021, 3:14 pm

Onychophagia I didn't chew on the nail but rather on the skin to either side of it.

I'd been doing it for decades. One day I leftblood smearson someone else's keyboard.
That bothered me enough I stopped doing it.

No special trick...just stubbornness combined with embarrassment and disgust at the thought I might leaveblood smearson other people's things.


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I finally knew why people were strange.


somesortofvariant
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13 Sep 2021, 7:48 am

magz wrote:
I found a wise therapist who teached me the approach that help us: boundaries. Even with the most loved ones. And yourself first. When things are breaking apart, adress your own needs first. It's not selfish. It's getting stable ground so you can help others instead of falling down with them.

I don't know how it relates to your situation but learning this approach let us survive very serious crises.


Thanks so much for sharing this, magz! I have been thinking about boundaries a lot this weekend. There are a couple of areas where they definitely could help us. It will take work, particularly remembering that they are there and need to be seriously respected. I have been told that I have a problem seeing boundaries, my own and others. But I can learn! Recognizing that my partner and I are on the spectrum -- and in different ways --really helps to put everything in perspective.



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13 Sep 2021, 8:18 am

Variant - My husband and I have had the rare experience of having divorced and then remarried each other. We have each never been married to anyone else. The divorce was the mistake, I suppose. But it was helpful, too.

During the time we spent as friends and not as a couple, we learned to speak to each other more politely. With little things, such as asking one another "Would you get me a drink?" "Thank you" and not taking the small kindness for granted, but also not feeling entitled to the other person's feelings. You can and should ask what do you think and how are you feeling, but let the other person answer. If they are evasive, let it go. You would not pry if it was your friend.

So my advice is to not try twist yourself into a pretzel trying to do or say the right thing when reacting to criticism. If you don't know what to do or say, say nothing. Mull it over and respond later. If it feels too personal, don't ever respond to it. He will get the point. And then do him the same curtesy.