Unhealthy habits: self-image versus true self

Contemplating the statement “I am an addict” or “I am addicted” is an important step in unlearning unhealthy habits. The key question is who the “I” is. The answer may surprise you and may radically change the view you have of yourself.

Insight in the way you think is an essential step on the way to recovery from unhealthy habits. In the sixties Dr. Maxwell Maltz was a famous plastic surgeon. He noticed that after their operations, some people would feel like new and restored, whereas no improvement would occur in other people. He conducted research and found that this phenomenon is related to the self-image people have of themselves. In his book “Psycho Cybernetics” he describes how one can improve one’s self-image and how this improves one’s well being, one’s happiness.

Even if your physical appearance is perfectly normal or beautiful to others, a negative self-image may distort the way you see yourself. A well known example of this is the person suffering from anorexia nervosa standing in front of a mirror, who finds that he or she is still too fat, even if doctors and family members that are present objectively perceive that this is untrue. The mind perceives reality the way it wants to perceive it (see my previous post on selective perception) according to the self-image one believes in, and not just the physical aspects of it.

The self-image is the identity we create of and for ourselves, and it “exists” separately from our true self.

Let me give you an example how this principle works in each of us. Have you ever noticed that you sometimes say things like “I was thinking to myself” or “I was saying or talking to myself”? The answer is an obvious yes. We all do at times.  The question is then, who is saying or thinking what to whom. Apparently the “I” is not a whole, since it has the faculty to talk or think to another part of itself. And since saying something is simply the verbal expression of our thinking, this very clearly shows that what we think is somehow separate from another part of ourselves.

As you observe yourself while standing in front of a mirror, you may think you see yourself. In fact what you are observing is the reflection of your body. The observer on the other hand, is invisible, but is definitely there.

The problem is that our self-image dominates our life. We behave according to our belief in that self-image and this belief is at the root of our thinking and of our perception of reality. One could equate this to with what is referred to in psychology as the “ego”

The behavior we call addiction – or unhealthy habits, as I prefer calling it – belongs only to the ego and is a consequence of the distorted self-image we have created… it does not belong to the true you you are. Once we become aware of this truth, our self-image can and will change so we can say addiction farewell.