The Habits that Drive Us All
I think everyone knows what ‘comfort food’ means. It’s that particular snack or food that you might crave when you’re tired, lonely, sad, happy, whatever. That particular food that if first tasted it as an adult, you probably wouldn’t like and would never eat again. And even knowing this, you find yourself drawn to it. (My big one is Jack in the Box tacos. What is in those things?)
I know it doesn’t make any logical sense. I know it is a completely emotional addiction. But it’s “OK”. It makes me feel good. And I know it will make me feel better for a little bit of time. Well, really, I know it won’t make me feel good. I “feel like” it will make me feel good. I “believe” it will make me feel better. Young, happy, content, calm. And, because my mind believes this, I DO feel better, for a short time. After the first few bites, my guilt kicks-in. (This doesn’t stop me from finishing the first one, and sometimes not even the second one).
You see, I, like you, can think more than one thing at a time. I know I should not be eating that greasy, oddly textured taco. At the same time, I sure feel like eating it. I have a craving, urge, compulsion, habit, desire, wanting, inclination, idea, long tooth for, urge…. you get the idea.
How did I learn this habit? I can remember being very young, maybe seven or eight years old. On the way to the beach in Southern California with my brothers and cousins. I remember my mom and her sister, my aunt, talking about “Jack in the Box tacos”. How good they are and greasy and how they’d be perfect to buy and take to the beach to eat. They were both happy and having a good time. That made me happy too. We went to the beach and it was warm, sunny we were playing and having a good time. And we ate the most delicious tacos in the world. I can remember some gritty sand getting onto some of my taco. (important, influential memories are more vivid than the mundane everyday memories). This scenario was repeated only a couple times, but I remember the first one the most clearly.
Today, even the anticipation of getting the taco triggers the good feelings that are associated with this memory. Sometimes the memory comes with the craving, but, usually not.
This same thing happens with some songs on the radio. I used to love Aerosmith until that concert with a girlfriend in the early 90’s. I don’t much care for them anymore and it’s been at least 15 years.
I’ve had an embarrassing fear of spiders that I’ve gotten over. I’ve traced that back to an experience with a black widow spider when I was maybe six or seven. It was on the inside of a bubble rear window of our van – pinstripes, tangerine orange with matching carpet. Hey, it was California and the 70’s. Both of my parents were freaking out and my two brothers and I had to quickly evacuate the back of the van. I am able to kill spiders on my own now, but a big one will still give me a shot of adrenaline.
One last example for you. Does anyone else still feel like a kid when someone says their first, middle and last name in a stern voice? Even a little bit? When my wife says Patrick Michael Glancy I know it’s time to leave and go do something in the garage.
Anyway… enough about me. The point of all this is to show you understandable examples of learned behaviors. Emotions associated with memories that trigger very powerful, behind the scenes reactions and decisions in our minds. The habits that drive us all.