The Attention Training Institute

Some Characteristics of Habit Thoughts

By Dr. Ernest Mastria

Habit Thoughts include concern for the future, dwelling in the past, worry of what others think, and dazing off in low activity situations. While some intelligent thoughts, such as planning and memory travel outside the present, they have a firm anchor in reality, always lead to a decision, and there is no resistance to return to the present.

In contrast, Habit Thoughts do not have a firm anchor in reality but are fabrications and distortions of reality, prevent decisions from being made since these reflect the individual’s taste, and resist a return to the present.

However, the easiest way to determine an intelligent thought from a Habit Thought is to see that intelligent thoughts are positive in content and result and that Habit Thoughts are negative in content and result.

Habit Thoughts are negative since the intelligence employs them to "Identify the Enemy". The intelligence, confused by the discomfort of holding back expression literally leaves the present to fabricate a justification for the discomfort. Since discomfort is negative in quality, any justification that the intelligence fabricates must also be negative since the thought is believed to produce a negative emotion.

However, there are other characteristics common to habit thoughts. First, they must be personal to the individual who experiences them in order to capture his/her attention. Second, they must be of some importance or value to that individual. It is the value of the content of the thought that determines the intensity of the discomfort experienced. Should the content of the thought be of low value, the individual may not attend to the fabrication and focus would maintain in the present. But high valued content is taken seriously by the individual and demands that attention be paid for fear of negative consequences.

Although Habit Thoughts at times have a specific content to capture the attention of the individual, most often they will not. At these times they are attitudes (reflexive interpretations of perception) or thoughts without words or pictures attached to them. Most frequently, the attitude will convey that something will happen that the individual will not be capable to handle with disastrous consequences to follow. These attitude (thoughts) are most frequently associated with an anticipation of pending doom and are the most frequent Habit Thought experienced by individuals.

There are occasions when Habit Thoughts may be extreme and produce intense discomfort for the individual. At these times, the intelligence will fabricate a justification for the discomfort of “hold back” that is in direct contrast or opposite the character and values of the individual.

For example, I had a student who happened to be a Jersey City Policeman. He came to me with concern and discomfort over the persistent thought that he would remove his revolver from its holster and fire at pedestrians. Another student believed that he might touch his children inappropriately while another believed that he was capable of hurling his young son from his shoulders where the boy was riding into a brick wall triggering the man’s concern for his violent behavior against his son.

The behaviors mentioned above are directly opposed to the characters and values of each of the students who experienced them. Although each realized their incapability to engage in these behaviors, each suffered extreme discomfort as a result since each believed that there might be a hidden, darker side of them that lurked in their personalities and could emerge at any time.

Each was vigilant during situations when such behaviors were more likely to occur. So that the first student was extremely cautious while on duty and the other two were cautious when with their children.

However, in situations where the feared behavior was not likely to occur such as off duty for the policeman or when each was away from their children, relief was meager. During these times each was preoccupied with thoughts of the feared behavior and distracted from the moment so that spontaneous expression could not occur.

Habit thoughts have one purpose, to distract the individual from the present so that spontaneous expression may not occur. In this purpose, Habit Thoughts fit my definition of a symptom. A symptom, regardless of the content has the purpose of distracting the individual from the present, where they may express tastes and find happiness.

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