When people want to change their bad habits — not flossing, procrastinating, drinking too much — “most of us only want to stop our most glaring self-destructive patterns,” psychotherapist Richard O’Connor writes in his new book. “Otherwise, we’re quite fine, thank you.”
But that narrow approach doesn’t work, he says: “There is no way to stop a bad habit without facing what it means and what it’s done to you.” In “Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior,” he explores a wide range of undesirable behavior patterns and a similarly wide range of tools for overcoming them.
O’Connor, whose previous books include “Undoing Depression” and “Undoing Perpetual Stress,” was for 14 years the director of a nonprofit mental health clinic. He draws from real-life examples as well as research papers to examine such varied concepts as self-hate, borderline personalities, mindfulness, burnout and 12-step programs.
But the book’s overriding piece of advice is that willpower is a skill you can learn, like tennis or typing. “You have to train your nervous system as you would train your muscles. . . . You have to take yourself to the psychic gym — but with the certainty that each time you practice an alternative behavior, you’ve made it easier to do next time.”