Riding a bicycle: thought patterns and rechanelling energy

Another post on some of the concepts that float through my grey matter when I am on a walkabout.
 You know that saying: You never forget how to ride a bicycle?

I am wondering what scope of abilities or habits this applies to.
For one, I can confirm that roller-blading, ice-skating and skiing work the same, trying those activities after 10 years of abstinence revealed that I could still ski as well as I could when I was 8 (more or less, I now have a lot more body to deal with). And based on my very sporadic piano and ukulele practise, I hypothesise this applies to any activity involving muscle memory.

But what if it also applies to thought patterns, and associated habits.
Take smoking for example. When I read the stories of brave individuals who have quit, some confide that the occasional whiff of cigarette smoke can still make their fingers itch, and when stressed perhaps, they suppress some urge to buy a pack and 'light 'em up'. More importantly, it is the act of smoking that they miss. They associate moments in their life with the act of smoking, and going through the motions without a cigarette feels empty.

For a beautiful and heartfelt post that describes what I think I know, read Gena's quitting story here.

But now something that I have personal experience with...
Self-harm (yea, this is a heavy post so if this isn't your slice of pie then just skip to the next section).

Forming and breaking the habit:
I consistently, ritualistically inflicted small cuts to my wrists (and the occasional leg), for the better part of a year. In hind-sight, I can see some of the factors that set me on this negative habit. I was in the early throes of puberty; I had those typical teenage moodswings, was easily upset and, though I did have lots of great friends at the time, I sometimes felt like an alien, an outsider. That last feeling wasn't entirely baseless, I had a somewhat *unique* appearance. My hair had an "unusual" texture, and high school kids (mostly boys) not being thoughtful humanitarians, I was bullied. Name calling, occasionally being hurt in P.E., it unbalanced my emotional state.

These factors meant that when I uncovered the society of moody/goth/emo teenagers online, I was ripe for the picking.
So I wore black around my eyes, covered my wrists with hair-tyes, and had a craft-knife in my backpack.

It began with glamorous appeal (scary dark glamour to be sure), all those beautiful people expressing their hurt. I wanted in on that. Conversely though, I was also ashamed. I knew my friends and family wouldn't ever approve such a habit.
I did make some friends in the same rut as me, (and strangely if you met us you would say we were very cheerful), and we felt a kin-ship.

How did I break free of the habit?
It began with being royally busted, leading to an extremely awkward conversation with my mom. I blamed the neighbour's cat the first time, and got away. The second time....my mom, not knowing how to handle it, simply told me there would be a consequence if I did it again. Strangely enough that worked. I tried cutting in other places but found that, at the swimming pool at least, they were too hard to disguise. In the end, it was too stressful, so I just stopped.

The very thing I did to feel better was actually giving me stress. So in a way, 'quitting' was liberating for me.

Keeping clear:
Like other detrimental habits, it's never a clean break.
Life happens. Upsets happen. And you get close, so very close, to your harmful fall-back. It is something you have learnt to associate with soothing away your troubles.

So what does one do? What did I do?
Here's where I come to the crux of this post. My coping mechanisms was distraction, plain and simple. Taking that urge to act, but channelling it into another activity, anything that calms your mind. I would get my pens and pencils and draw my heart out (with the added bonus of improving my finer drawing skills booyah). Or retreat to the nearest piano and hammer out my memorised pieces, try to decipher some new sheet music, or simply plug in my earphones and wail along to a fine selection of angsty music along the cliffs (to not subject the general populace to my verbal out-pour of emotion).

It's all about forming a new way of coping right? It beats the hell out of drinking or binge-eating or self-harm. So there ya go! Please note I know it is not as simple as that. Each time you have to consciously decide to be positively productive, and it is like walking on a tight-rope, so easy to fall. But nonetheless, the gratification when looking back a week, a month, a year later, is priceless.

Question: Have you or someone close to you formed a negative coping mechanism? Does this post help you or reflect your experiences?


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