[ Note: This is a three-part post, dealing with Teshuva (repentence), change, and helping our children to change. While the first section(s) may look to be wholly Elul-Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year) oriented, special needs readers are urged to read them, as the conclusions reached will impact and dictate the later post on effecting change in our children.]
Please read yesterday’s post if you have not done so yet.
Therfore, if we want to effect a change in ourselves, we need to first make An Accounting of the Benefits and Cons of our behavior:
It is important to think carefully into WHAT the BENEFITS we are enjoying from the behavior we are engaged in. Only once we acknowledge these benefits for what they are, do we have a chance at changing our behavior. (I will elaborate on this point further down.) And we need to really verify in real-life terms what the detriments are. To me, the loss of not being at Ricki’s nephew’s wedding in 13 years (or so), means more than writing “a heart attack”.
Rosh HaShana Before Yom Kippur
Now this is one of the reasons why Rosh HaShana (the Jewish New Year), the crowning of G-d as King, comes before Yom Kippur. Because I can not do teshuva (repentence) if I do not see clearly the disadvantages of my actions. How can I truly hope to change my behavior (say, in poor concentration in prayer) if I am not fully aware of the holiness and mightiness of G-d, and my loss of a spiritual connection with Him if I continue sinning?
Effecting Permanent Change in Ourselves
However, realizing the detriments of a wrong behavior is often not enough. Especially when dealing with a behavior that gives us pleasure or other benefits. In order to effect permanent change, we also have to look at how we are BENEFITING from that behavior, and either:
1. find a different, acceptable way to obtain that benefit, and/or
2. eliminate the need for that benefit.
For example, the overeater above has several benefits from overeating. What can be her (his) response to them?
1. “calms me down” – learn other ways of relaxation. If under stress, try to stop and do deep relaxation for five minutes, put on a soothing tape (or MP3 player)
2. “wakes me up when tired” – Try and get more sleep. If extremely tired, and feeling the urge to overeat as a result, try and get even a half-hour nap. Otherwise, maybe try putting a “snazzy” cassette on.
3. “social benefits”- try and manage parties (once you have taken a break for a month or so) by claiming “sorry, but it’s doctor’s orders....”
4. Can eat cakes, etc. Allow yourself one fattening snack a week, in MODERATION (pre-measure it in advance), and ONLY if you have dieted well the remainder of the week. Thus you can tell your evil inclination: “OK. I will have a (small) piece of cake on Saturday.” This way you are able to YES have a BIT of cake, and are learning good moderate habits for the future. [Now if your “vice” is something that should not be done in moderation, like bad-mouthing your Mother-in-Law, just write a letter spilling out your anger, and BURN it!]
Thus, by seeing the detriments and harm of our behavior, and substituting better actions for the benefits, we stand a decent chance of succeeding. In addition, it would be wise to institute some type of record-keeping system, or support group, when needed, to help insure that we do not conveniently “forget” the lessons we have learned.
[A further post on applying the above to special-needs children will be in a day or two.]