NB: I originally wrote this at the end of January 2008, but never got around to posting. With very little blogging time available to me in the immediate future, I present it to you today.
@garageflowers -As I’m trying to give something up, I’m wondering: how do you know it’s a broken habit? I’m still thinking about mine -a lot
My response well exceeded the 140 characters limit, but as I wrote, I got to thinking about the behavioral and psychological implications of my silly little experiment. Here are my responses, compiled & edited for clarity:
There’s no way to “tell” for sure; I just have learned to better control my impulses – over the last 20 years or so, cursing has become reflexive for me, and I first started this project about a month ago, so I’ve had quite a few false starts. I finally feel like I have more control; I’m better able to stop and think and choose words more carefully before just letting loose.
I don’t know what Jackie’s thinking about giving up, but if you (or your spouse, or kids, or students) find yourself in a similar situation, it may pay to shift your thinking a bit.
Old & Busted: Why do I/he/she/it do that?
The New Hotness: What function does this behavior serve?
Generally speaking, human behavior can be boiled down to attempts to serve one of four major functions:
- It feels good (self-stimulation)
- It gets us out of having to do something difficult or unpleasant (task escape/avoidance)
- It gets (or keeps) us attention (um… pretty self-explanatory, I think)
- It reduces pain or stress (yeah, this one too)
For me, I think cursing suited functions #1 and 4. Go on, get real angry then say the “F” word – it feels so nice and percussive in that labio-dental sort of way – there’s a reason why we say that instead of “rutabaga” or “sassafrass”, you know. Ridiculous as it sounds, it soothed me when I was frustrated, angry, or in pain. Unfortunately, my wife hates it, and my kid’s starting to repeat it. Intellectually, I know I should stop, but the instant gratification I receive from the behavior is too strong. So what’s a reflective, self-aware pottymouth to do? In the short term…
- Figure out the function, then find another way to serve that function
- Determine an alternate, preferred behavior
- Provide incentive to choose the preferred behavior over the target behavior
More in Part II…