In With the New and Out with the Old... The Power of Familiarity
Happy New Year! Many of us make the New Year a monumental time for change. Understandable… new year, new you, right? In with the new and out with the old. So many people make resolutions, yet only 8% of people keep them (1). Yes, I really did type 8%.
That number is pretty low and shows that a whopping 92% of people DO NOT keep their resolutions.
People’s intentions for a resolutions I find much of the time well intended. The most popular of course in the US is to get healthier, perhaps exercise more, get fit. Other people have intentions to work less, spend more time with their kids and family, go on a vacation. These sound great! So why are we failing at these so miserably?
This is going to get a lot deeper than you may expect (but what else would you expect from me?). So grab a cup of tea or coffee and get ready to sit back and read.
I took myself out on a date this last Friday evening. When I do this locally, I usually go to this one Thai restaurant and sit at the bar. I order something yummy, and I will usually end up chit chatting here and there with whoever is next to me or near me. I was sitting next to this group of seasoned women. We got to talking… turns out they love to travel too. So we talked about our adventures. The one directly next to me saw what I was eating.
“Do you eat pretty healthy?” she asked. “Yeah, I do typically,” I responded. “I do sometimes, but I am a snacker. I snack all of the time. I am lazy,” she said. I told her, “There is a reason you snack, and it is not because you are ‘something’.” She gave me a look of curiosity and just told me I was interesting haha! We continued to eat our dinners and talk about other random subjects.
What I meant is that there is a deeper reason she wants to snack all of the time. Yes it is not healthy, but if she were a client of mine, we would be exploring the WHY.
She obviously does not like how she eats. She KNOWS there is a healthier way to eat, and yet she still reaches for the potato chips. I am arguing there is a subconscious WHY, and we all have one.
You know when you’re sitting down in a restaurant and taking in your surroundings; you see the people sitting all around you, and then you notice them. Yes, them. The couple with a perpetual frown on their face. They’re arguing. They’ve probably been together 30 plus years. Many of you probably have parents like this. They have been together decades and yet they are miserable as can be. Some people are in jobs where they are miserable as can be, yet continue to drudge through the day to day. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we stay in situations that no longer serve us where we are so miserable and are unable to feel our joy?
There are many reasons, but the ONE contributor to this phenomenon I would like to talk about today is familiarity. When things are familiar, we recognize them… good, bad, or indifferent. What I have come to learn is that familiarity is POWERFUL. When something is familiar we can navigate it; we know the trail so to speak. We know what to expect, what’s coming, how to function in it. We know the habit, routine, what will be said, what will be done. And it can absolutely paralyze us into familiar lives and relationships, whether they are healthy for us or not.
As I see it, familiarity comes down to:
What we are able to see (either visually or in the “third eye sense” in that moment).
What programs we have subconsciously about “the world” (i.e EVERYTHING in our environment).
WE ABSOLUTELY CANNOT SEE (in this moment) WHAT WE HAVE NEVER SEEN (I will get into this shortly). Familiarity is built from a consistency of a certain type of environment.
Our brains are computers, and so much of our programming of “how the world is and works” is actually done before age 2 (4). We are literally taking in information and forming programming about the world while we are in the womb. After all, to survive (physically and/or emotionally) we need to know what kind of environment we are getting into, AND we need to know how to navigate it.
So let me go back to the lady sitting next to me at the bar. I cannot say for certain (as she is not a client and I am not working with her), but based on other clients I have worked with and my own personal healing, what is driving her to snack is very familiar to her, yet quite unhealthy. Possibly chronic stress and perpetual loneliness (she is much older, never been married nor has children). For myself, overeating was due to chronic stress I did not know I had. I also subconsciously associated food with love (with is a program and belief I had subconsciously). My grandma always fed me lots of food growing up, and I associated that with being cared for and loved, since there was not a lot of nurturance in my environment otherwise.
I can almost guarantee this does not address this because what she knows is comfortable and familiar (not happy and joyous, but that is unfamiliar to her), and she has decided to be complacent in it. In addition, the belief of “I am lazy” is setting her up for failure. You are whatever you believe you are. She has accepted that as reality. On the other hand too, she may not be even to comprehend or see another way. So there is this piece…
Here is a fascinating study that highlights what I mean by, “Not being able to see or comprehend.” This study is actually led to a Nobel Peace Prize (Dang son!). David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel in the 1950s studied kittens. There were two groups; the first group was raised in a room with only vertical lines and the second group was raised in a room with only horizontal lines ( the lines were on wallpaper). The results were pretty mind blowing. The cats raised one environment were literally blind to an environment that had lines running the other way. For example, the cats that were in the horizontal group could see the horizontal cushions of chairs just fine, and would hop up on them and take naps. But, they were constantly running into the vertical chair legs. Because they had never seen them before, they literally “did not compute.” Same was true with the other group. They ran into anything horizontal but avoided anything that stood vertical (2).
Again, familiarity is born out of consistency of a certain type of environment. This includes everything in the environment from the surroundings, the weather, the people, the relationships.
This cat study may be focusing on the visual, but I found this concept to be 100% applicable to any aspect of an environment, including relationships. For example, if you came from an emotionally distant family, emotional distance will be familiar. How about abusive? Look at your track record of current or prior relationships. I can even say this for myself. I grew up in an environment of “take care of everyone else and do not talk about your emotions or needs.” Again, this was codependency. These were my “vertical lines” let’s say. The “horizontal lines” were loving, mutual relationships with no fragrance of codependency. Until I could realize I had a problem, I ALMOST ALWAYS went for the “vertical line” of non-mutual relationships. Why? It’s because it was what I recognized. I could “see” it.
Here is even another example for you. I briefly saw a guy in 2017 after my marriage ended. He also struggled severely with codependency and care taking of others. He had always been in unhealthy, non-mutual, and emotionally abusive relationships. It was what he knew. He told me one day, “I do not know what to do with this.” “This” being nurturance, respect, love, and care in our dynamic. We had an amazing connection, but he bolted. He went back to his “vertical” lines of being taken advantage of and used. It wasn’t anything personal… he wasn’t ready and was too afraid of changing his surroundings… A whole new world, a whole new life, a whole new him.
This is not a death sentence. Anyone can heal, and just as you were taught to see one way, you can reprogram and open yourself up to seeing another. But now I can compute “horizontal lines” of loving mutual relationships. I changed my programming and therefore what I “see.” You have the power to change this.
The other step to getting out of old familiarity was changing my subconscious programming… my beliefs on how the world worked and how I worked. According to cognitive neuroscientists, we are conscious of only about 5 % of our cognitive activity, so most of our decisions, actions, emotions, and behavior depends on the 95 % of brain activity that goes beyond our conscious awareness (3). That is what is allowing my clients to heal deeply and become the free and healthy people they have desired to be! There are so many subconscious beliefs around fear, change, what we deserve, what love is, holding onto things, what conditions are placed around receiving, etc etc. It all comes from the environment we come from.
If you really think about it… our decisions, actions, emotions, and behavior depends on 95 % of brain activity that goes beyond conscious awareness, and so it is no surprise only 8 % of New Year’s Resolutions last.
I am going to say this over and over… You are not your mind. Your mind is a tool, and programming is just that… programming. It was developed so you could survive your environment at one place and time. And just like a computer programmed can be changed, so can yours.
So if you want to change your programming and have access to your highest potential, be able to make your resolutions with ease, then contact me. See what my clients are saying about their experience working with me here.
You deserve to be joyous and have healing that lasts. Life is too short. Enjoy.