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Real Connections: 3 Habits That Block Connection & 3 Habits Anyone Can Grow Instead – By Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S

Dear Reader, the idea for this blog post came when I was weeding our backyard. In this post you will be able to 1) identify the typical habit you find yourself choosing that blocks connection and 2) also the typical habit your relationship could be stuck in now. Then 3) you can use the free worksheet, 3 healthy habits to grow , to help yourself grow the healthy habit instead to create real connection.

Back to me weeding in the backyard – As new homeowners we made a mistake the last few times we mowed our yard, we left the bag off the mower which inadvertently spread lots of native flower-seed along with weeds across the yard. Little did we know that when spring came our yard would look like a sea of “pink evening primrose” (according to friends at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – thanks y’all!). Lovely, huh? 

Photo by Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia, www.wildflower.org

 

Those pink ones I didn’t mind too much because they drew in birds and butterflies, it was the other “native grasses” that also spread that I minded because these had little stickers that came with them. Ugh. So I was weeding. As I was weeding the thought came how weeding is a bit like changing sticky old habits for healthier new ones. Here we are then, with the idea of 3 Typical Habits That Block Real Connections & 3 Healthy Habits Anyone Can Grow Instead.

These 3 Typical Habits come from years of experience with people of various cultural backgrounds—it seems these habits are universally human. We will often consciously or subconsciously choose these habits for multiple reasons, the most common being self protection or self preservation. We can also choose not just one of these, but two or three on a regular basis. There we are then, your relationship with the unhealthy habits is like the yard with weeds!

A habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up”, and the synonyms include custom, practice, routine, pattern, way, rule, or matter of course. (according to Dictionary.com)

  • Let’s start with identifying the habit you typically choose whether consciously or unconsciously,

and

  • Next we can move on to identifying which habit your relationship might be stuck in right now,

then

 

Which of these three typical habits do you typically find yourself choosing:

  • The habit of choosing fear (over connection) – Fear can look like lots of different actions in a relationship but don’t be deceived, it is a habit.
    • Fear does not allow for real connection because you often try to consciously or subconsciously protect or preserve yourself or your current status quo.
    • Fear comes in with thoughts, past hurt, others experiences, or unbalanced brain and gut wellness.
    • Fear can look like avoiding getting into a relationship, choosing to avoid conversation, not talk about the difficult growing areas, dating the same person or same type, and other similar items.

 

  • The habit of choosing distraction (over connection) – Distraction can look similar to fear but it typically desires to avoid possible pain or loss instead of needed growth.
    • Distraction doesn’t allow for real connection because you don’t allow for connection to occur past the surface level.
    • Distraction comes in often through either past hurt or anxiety about future hurt. It can also come in if you’ve never had training in how to handle emotions, intimacy, or conflict. (It can also be driven by unbalanced brain and gut wellness that feeds the inability to focus or stay grounded.)
    • Distraction can look like overwork, constant phone scrolling when with others, people-watching, chronic procrastination, walking out of conversations, or multi-tasking

 

  • The habit of choosing comfort (over connection) – Comfort can look like a regular routine, rule, or matter of course that isn’t changed not because of opportunity but because of seeking only that which is comfortable or familiar.
    • Comfort doesn’t allow for real connection because there is no place of growth, or often no grace-space either, and relationships are real when there is place for both growth and grace.
    • Comfort often comes in either through health challenges, current overload, stress, anxiety, or lack of training as mentioned above. It can also come in through past hurt that hasn’t been resolved or future possible hurt.
    • Comfort can look like keeping conversations in the same topics, going to the same person even when you know its not best, and any behaviors that are more avoidant like too much of something (tv, food, reading, movies, a substance, social activities, etc.)

Did you see your typical habit in those 3?

The first step is recognizing your desire for something different which you did by reading this blog. The second step is what you just did, identity the possible culprit. Way to go!

Think of a current important relationship that seems to be “stuck” or in need of growth or real connection. Got one in mind? Now, does one of these habits seem to be present in the relationship – either for you, for the other person, or as a way the relationship/your connection seems to function out of this habit?

If you identified one, you’ve now got a great head-start on bringing in real connection for your relationship! If you feel comfortable doing so, I’d encourage you to follow these steps to help change the habit of the relationship.

Possible Steps to Help Change the Relationship’s Habit –

  1. Using the format of dealing with anxiety found in the verses of scripture in Philippians 4:5-7, pray through what you’ve seen and how you want God to intervene for and with you.
  2. Take responsibility for your part – go through the next step using the worksheet and ask God to help you change into being real, growing where you need, and loving others as He loves us.
  3. Share what you’ve learned – share with the other person not to change them, but from a place of humility of what you have learned. A good way to start that conversation is “I’ve learned something I’ve been doing that is hurting our relationship. I want to stop it and I want to share with you what I’ve learned so we can grow together.”
  4. Apologize, forgive, and move forward – apologize for the hurt you caused the other person, ask for their forgiveness, forgive each other, and move forward with healthy steps. It might also be helpful to have a friend, pastor, mentor who can keep you accountable for making the habit change.

 

With each of these habits you will often find other avoidance habits or socially acceptable self-harm habits like regularly binge-watching shows, over use of alcohol, smoking, marijuana use, overeating, eating disorders, or possibly retail-therapy. If these are present for you or your loved one, it’s time to get a professional involved that you can trust and who will offer grace, no judgment, but truth-filled support.  

 

If you’ve read any blog posts before you’re aware that I believe healing comes through the love and power of Jesus Christ. This post is full of that foundation because when it comes to habits, we can all choose unhealthy ones just because we are human and our brains seek both protection and connection. I believe that to live the best me, I want to base my determination of “healthy” on the words of Jesus and the character he says I have available to me. So much of the next steps here will reflect that base. If at this point you don’t believe in Jesus, don’t know the love I speak of, or don’t feel comfortable yet with applying the scripture I mention, then please try starting with asking God to show you how he is loving, why he is trustworthy, how he does like you, and how he wants to help you love others well.

 

Now then, here are the 3 Healthy Habits Anyone Can Grow Instead:

  • With the habit of choosing fear (over connection)
    • The new habit to grow: forgive first –because we fear from past hurt or perceived future hurt so grow a habit fed by unconditional love for yourself and for others in healthy relationships –see the worksheet for practical ideas on each of these –
      • Growing unconditional love for yourself – this can be tough if you’ve lived or do live with messages about yourself that are hurtful or untrue. Begin by removing those and replacing them with what is true, healthy, and beneficial. Create a daily declaration, ask God to help you develop these, speak scripture over yourself that declares these to be true. Unconditional love for yourself looks like honoring, respecting, and forgiving yourself. It also looks like coming to God and receiving forgiveness from Him so you can be connected to God too. (Believing in God, then receiving His forgiveness, is just as simple as talking to your best friend, something like; God I believe in you and I need your help. I want to change my ways. I want to be healed. Please forgive me for the mistakes and the sin I have done. Please heal me and give me a pure heart, clean hands, and a wise Godly mind. I will follow your guidance in the written word of God. Thank you God! In Jesus name, Amen.)
      • Growing unconditional love for others – this can be tough if you’ve ever been hurt, betrayed, or had your trust misused by others. This does not mean you let others walk over you. No real love is about real connection and real connection comes through real boundaries.
      • Areas to watch –healthy boundaries and safe relationships

 

  • With the habit of choosing distraction (over connection)
    • The new habit to grow: creating space for grace – because we get distracted when we are stressed or overwhelmed so grow a habit fed by peace  –see the worksheet for practical ideas on each of these –
      • Space for grace – if there is a lack of self-respect, confidence, or healthy habits, giving yourself grace will be difficult. It will also be difficult if there are any messages you’ve learned or internalized that say you can’t rest or relax or care for yourself.
      • Grace is not just a nice word, it is a practical habit that comes through kindness, patience, authenticity, and much prayer.
      • Areas to watch – self care and anxiety sources

 

  • With the habit of choosing comfort (over connection)
    • The new habit to grow: believing the best – because we choose comfort or familiarity when anxious about what could be so grow a habit fed by hope –see the worksheet for practical ideas on each of these –
      • Feeding hope – hope is a substance that is fed by believing the best, taking care of your self, showing respect and honor, and maintaining healthy boundaries. Hope has its foundation in faith. Not just faith but the real foundational substance of what you know life and love to be founded upon.
      • We feed hope by fueling our faith, reminding ourselves on this foundational substance, giving others the benefit of the doubt, being real ourselves, and having healthy, realistic, shared expectations.
      • Areas to watch –expectations and faith

 

If you haven’t already done so, this is a good time to download the free worksheet 3 Healthy Habits Anyone Can Grow. With this worksheet you can help create a plan for yourself to grow these healthy habits. It’s real important that you give yourself a set time to allow these healthy habits to becomes actual habits.

Don’t give up and don’t expect it to happen in a week. New habits take at least 20-30 days to just get started, and it takes at least 30-60 days for them to become settled and stable. Think about the image of grooves in a field made by a wagon that become tracks and then become deeply cut mini-valleys. That’s what happens in our brain in a way – first we identify the new path and cut through the long grass, then we continue the same path clearing out the grasses, then we continue the same path creating a track that is familiar, then we create a mini-valley that is automatic.

You can do this! I believe that with God’s help you can develop the 3 Healthy Habits Anyone Can Grow!

Next month we will jump into growing confidently connected to each other.

 

Next Steps:

  • Did a current conversation or a certain someone pop into mind as you read this blog?
  • Download the worksheet!
  • Which of the reflection questions were the easiest for you?
  • Share this blog with someone else

 

We were never designed to go through life alone, but life and adulting can make it begin to feel like that! Don’t let it stay that way! Get back to the important things of building healthy relationships and being a healthy, safe, good friend to those in your life! Together we can make a difference in bringing about healthy, safe, good growing relationships!

 

 

Warmly,

Liz

 

Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs a counseling center in Austin, Texas and with husband David Lawrence co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com  or www.renue.me

 

Currently IN NETWORK with Blue Cross and Humana. In Network with United in May!

Also accepting all other OUT OF NETWORK providers.

 

Photo Credits:

Photo from Pexels.com, Graphic on Canva

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