The Habit that Smoking the Past Has Created or Why I Do It

I think about the homework I must prepare for the EMDR treatment. We have pulled out the cluster of similar core beliefs related to all the traumatic events of my life. I might as well say what they are, as you may be curious. The overarching themes are vulnerability, dismissal, future existence, abuse of power, injustice/frustration, spiritual, shame, sexual abuse, and health. From there we developed a starting points of core beliefs I have in each of those, such as “I can’t protect myself” for vulnerability, going for a positive belief of “I can help myself” and on for each one. These are personal statements that we worked on that resonate with me–that is important.

That brings me to the homework and the PTSD with the EMDR. When I last talked with her, my therapist and I worked on listing all events related to shame. It made me anxious, nauseous, and even a bit afraid, feeling the shame of all those events. But a better use of time, since I know what needs to be done, is me doing the lists on my own.

That is what a total non-procrastinator is procrastinating on.

Because of last time’s PTSD symptoms, I am not too keen on going down that list and bringing up every traumatic event of my life to think long enough about it to fit it under a target area.

Some might wonder why I do this to myself. People indeed have wondered, questioned, doubted, berated, and shamed me because of this continual delving into past (and present). It isn’t a choice, you see. What people don’t think about when they think the past is the past is that every single thing you have gone through in your entire life has shaped you in some way. Most of the time it just means you consider new ideas and have a new understanding. Most of the time good habits in behavior and thinking are laid out in your neural pathways somewhere in your past.

For some of us, most of the time our past, right up to the present, has dug deep into our neural pathways to create unhealthy thinking and behavior–including anything from the PTSD symptoms, triggers, and experiences to how I attach to friends or how I face the problems going forward.

No, it isn’t a matter of just trying to create a new habit, like quitting smoking. Smoking is so addictive because it has created this neural pathway that tells your brain you need it to feel better, especially when stressed. At first maybe that was true, but any “benefit” it had long lost its potency.

My neural pathways, the coping mechanisms that truly helped me survive as a child and sometimes help me survive as an adult, no longer help. In fact, just as smoking is bad for your health and has terrible consequences usually in the future, my coping mechanisms have endangered my health in relationships with friends and even my Lord, my ability to adapt to new scary situations, and so on.

However, unlike smoking, my negative neural pathways were developed literally from birth by two abusive parents, church members, and even therapists, among others. I can’t just isolate the childhood stuff either because it is my childhood neural pathways that have insinuated themselves into these other situations and reinforced the old ways.

The past isn’t just the past. It is neural pathways dug deep into the psyche of you or I. It is the habit that smoking the past has created.

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