Habitual thinking and behavior are often a cause of trouble! Intensive and sustained work is usually necessary to achieve greater understanding of why we behave in ways that increase our own suffering or the suffering of others, and to then change those behaviors. Unfortunately, there is usually not enough time or space in the primary care setting to do this work. I believe, however, that family physicians are ideally suited to partner with patients on these journeys. Indeed the damage wrought by substance abuse, addictions of many sorts, compulsive eating patterns, and inability to care for our bodies and minds in various ways despite a desire to do so, is responsible for much of the dis-ease that afflicts modern socieities.
The forces that have shaped us and our behavioral patterns are complex and tangled and in some regards, unknowable. I have come to believe that the best we can hope for is to gain a rough understanding of how our genetic, cultural and family history has influenced us. We are also all subject to limitations imposed by the world around us now, be they poverty, isolatiion, difficult people or situations, aging and illness. Many of these powerful factors we have little or no control to change. What we DO have some control over are the recurring patterns of behavior that add to and sometimes entirely create our own suffering. Some understanding of how and why those habit energies have formed is important, but understanding is often not enough to free ourselves of the grip they exert.
The tools found in eastern philosophies and spiritual traditions, when blended with aspects of contemporary western psychologies, offer approaches to help us free ourselves of unwanted and stifling habits. Over many years of working with motivated patients to address behaviors that result in suffering, I have seen transformation occur in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. I have deep gratitude for the opportunity to share this work with my patients.