Breaking Habits (1956)

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Breaking Habits (1956)


This is National Educational Television a program produced for the educationaltelevision and radio center. This is a program about you, yourthoughts and why you think them, your actions and why you make them. To explainit all here's Dr Fred McKinny professor of psychology at the University of of Missouri.How do you do? Let's look at this man here. Have you got a cigarette? Have you ever felt that way? Apparently he'strying to break the habit of smoking. He's been working all day and uh now he wants a cigarette.He's looked all over for one he feels he must.

Have it. About 50% of Americans smoke many ofthem from time to time want to break the habit of smoking. Now this program is not on this nosmoking it's uh more a program on how to break the habit if you want to. It's not on this or onthis. Uh in fact we're just using smoking as an example of one of the habits because we find thatmany people have certain habits that they want to break. I went into a class not so long ago took asheet of paper, asked him to pull out a sheet of paper and write down all the habits that theywanted to break then I asked them to turn the paper over and on the other side write down allthe habits that they had already broken. And when I looked at both groups of these I found greatoverlapping — that is all of them had certain habits they wanted to break, but all of them alsohad broken other habits and there was not too.

Much difference between the habits that they hadbroken and the habits they wanted to break. Here were some they mentioned smoking, wasting time,overeating, being late, jealousy, and drinking are some of the habits they want to break. Ishowed this list of habits to a friend of mine who was a cartoonist and he drew some cartoonsof these of these various habits as he saw them. And here's the cartoon on drinking. This iswhat a drinking looks like to a cartoonist. And here's one on chain smoking maybe that's theway the chain smoker looks to the nonsmoker. And here's one on fingernail biting there theyare on the floor next to him. Here is bad temper. Dick Null saw this as an angry mantrying to choke a little innocent bird. and this is discourtesy to elders — a little impsawing the floor around an elderly gentleman..

Have you ever thought very much about this matterof habit? Uh have you ever thought uh how much a habit was a part of us? Cicero I think it wassaid that habit is second nature. The Duke of Wellington in hearing this said second naturehabit is 10 times nature. We can change our habits uh but we can't change them like that. Ourhabits change just as our profiles change but they change uh they change even faster but we mustknow some of the principles behind breaking of habits. Take this matter of habit uh somebody saidwe are walking bundles of habit and certainly we are. Suppose uh you would lose all your habitstomorrow morning you would be in a pretty sad way. You couldn't get up because getting up andwalking is a habit you couldn't communicate your difficulties to somebody else because talking isa habit. As a matter of fact you would be totally.

Incapacitated. One reason why we don't breakhabits rapidly is that habits are represented by bodily change – many of them in the nervous systemrepresented by this diagram here. And there are bodily changes taking place every time we buildor break a habit. Now I think it might be well if we're going to talk about breaking habits and seeif we're going to see what's behind them behind the process it might be well to talk with somepeople who have broken habits. Now some of these habits seem minor but to the individual sometimesa minor habit seems very important particularly if he tries to break it and can't because it's tiedup with what he thinks of as his will. Now let's talk to some of these people. The first one isAl Helix how are you Mr Al Helix?Have a seat. Thank you.What habit did you break?.

I broke the habit of playing bridge.Is that a bad one? Well sometimes it is and sometimes it isn'tthere were at least a couple reasons why it was a bad habit for me. One of them wasthat uh I played 8 to 12 hours a day and it interfered with all the other things that Iought to be doing and another reason was that uh the habits bad I think if you can't quitwhen you want to and I just couldn't quit. I see it must have meant a lot to you. What doyou think you got out of this bridge playing? Well now that I look back on it uh I think I gotacceptance into the group of people that did play bridge and I got prestige in that group because II played Bridge pretty well I read a lot of books and saw to it that I did play pretty well.So it really meant something.

To you it was satisfying to you?It meant so much that I couldn't get away from it for more than a day or two at a time.Well then how did you break it? Well that's that's another sort of funny thingI can't really say that I did break it oh it . It sort of uh broke itself. I tried to breakit and couldn't and then later I was married and started teaching school had children and starteddoing other things and when I started doing these other things and satisfying other needs I guessthrough these activities while then Bridge plan just dropped out and I didn't have to try to quit.I see in other words it looks like you were satisfying through teaching and throughyour married life the needs that you were previously satisfying through Bridgepaying. You satisfied them in a new way you.

No longer needed the bridge playing.That's right. That's a good point. Thank you very much. mhm you see what happenedthere uh he he wanted to break the habit but he couldn't break it until he could satisfythe great needs that he had for Prestige being with other people in another way.Now let's talk with another man who has broken a habit Mr Aaron Bronstein. How are youAaron? Good to see you what do you got there? Oh a little picture of myself picture of yourself.Does this illustrate the habit that you broke? I think it does very.Well let's let's show that to our audience. How much did you weigh here?197 lb And how much do you weigh there?147 lbs. Stand out so they can.

See you. I see quite a difference. Well whydon't you sit down and tell us how you broke this habit. It was a habit of overeating huh?It certainly was um I don't really know why I overate I guess some people could explainit on the basis of great many things but before long overeating became a habit and I didovereat and uh got up to an enormous weight. Did you find that you ate whenever youweren't feeling so good unhappy disturbed? Yes I'd always think of good excuses to eat.Yes well now why did you break the habit? Well I found uh that whatever reasons I had foreating overeating certainly weren't as great as the reasons I had …uh my social life washampered and things of that sort it just got in the way I guess of my stomach .Oh it looks like you were.

Having some social life here.Well I guess you might say I was a jolly fat man. I see uhhuh uh who's this pretty girl?Oh French movie actress at a college Carnival back home.Uhhuh were you dancing in with her? She was dancing and I was rolling.I see yes now uh you told us why you wanted to break the habit, how did you break it?Well I decided all of a sudden to go on a very severe diet and I got pretty fast results andin that way I got a great deal of recognition and praise and some immediate attention from theopposite sex and this encouraged me very much. I see. It was a drastic diet you got quickresults and encouragement and you saw the results. I certainly did.Did uh you have.

A ever been under Physician's care?No I didn't uh-huh. Did you have any exercises tied up with this diet? Just one little one. Oh simply turningyour head and using it at the dinner table. I see thank you very much Aaron. Aaron was ableto break this habit of overeating mainly because he started out rather drastically got a greatdeal of results and these results encouraged him. Now let's talk to a couple of girls about theirhabits. Come in Jenny, good to see you. How are you?Hi. Won't you have a seat? Nowwhat habit did you break? Well I had the habit of fingernail biting.I see and uh why did you want to break it?.

Well it was social pressure mainly and comparinguh fingernails and you could see very definitely it was a lot prettier to have longer nailsthan to have old stubby bitten off thing. You'd watch some of the girls with prettylong nails and compare them to yourself? Oh yeah.And that was a strong motivation huh? Yes we sort of looked up to some of the oldergirls that did have the long fingernails. Yes. Any other reason?Well little sister was a… Oh yeah the little sister's a tantalizer huh?Yes indeed. And then she'd tease you andyou'd want longer nails huh? Well just something to makeher keep her mouth shut..

Now you told us why. How did you do it?Well that wasn't so easy. I see.A couple's kids started trying to find something we could put in our mouth to takethe place of it so we finally came across uh well we finally decided that we'd use chewing gum.Mhm good. Oh yes so we tried chewing a half stickbecause just as long as we had something in our mouth so when our fingers went up …Oh it reminded you and you could do something with your mouth.Yes. And you substituted one habit for the other.How'd you get rid of chewing … how'd you get rid of this habit?Well…..

Gum chewing habit.It did get to be a bit of a habit cuz we sort of we just had to have the gum, but ifyou didn't have the gum we'd ask around right our little gang and if no one had gum well you justcouldn't do anything you just couldn't chew it. It didn't seem to be asstrong a habit it later huh? Well if you didn't have ityou had to do without it. Oh I see. But the fingers were always there.Well strangely enough we didn't seem to go back to fingers we didn't want them they weren'tI see they didn't taste good or something. I see. Well thank you very much Jennyfor telling us about this. Now Virginia substituted a more desirable habit for a lessdesirable habit uh we've got another girl here.

That we want to interview to find out somethingabout her habits, Francis Waterman. How are you Francis? Good to see you won't you have aseat? Now you tell us what habit you broke. Oh I broke the habit ofviolently losing my temper. I see and uh why did you want to break that habit?Well after I left High School I got a job with the telephone company and we had tohave contact with a customer all day and there you didn't break your you loseyour temper so I had to break that habit. Mhm yes yes and how did you do it?Well we had an education school where we learned how to be courteous and we learned how to controlour temper even though the customer lost his. I see.And I carried that over into.

The home life where I learned how to control mytemper with my family and my brothers especially. Mhm and you learned to watch the other fell losinghis temper and to remain calm while he did it. Yes I found that when I did that Ihad better control over the situation. And you found that even moresatisfying than losing your own temper? Yes I did why do you think you lostyour temper in the first place? You think it got you attention or you think youdominated the group when you lost your temper? I just think I didn't have controlof my own self and I lost my temper. And and when you learned to hold yourtemple while others lost theirs you were able to transfer it to the home situationwhere you previously lost your temper?.

Yes.Thank you very much. Thank you.Uh here is a girl who had the urge come from the outside. It was somebody else's idea thatshe control her temper and she did. Uh now let us uh see what we can gain from this knowledge thatwe got from these people. What did they tell us? Uh I have here over on the board three suggestionsfor breaking habits. The first is we should see what the habit means to us — what needs do doesthe habit satisfy? And when I was interviewing these people the first time I jotted down someof the things uh some of the meaning that these habits had to them. Take Virginia for example whobit her fingernails she was tense uh and nervous and this was a way to relax. She could rip rip offa fingernails whenever she was tense. Take Aaron..

Aaron uh used to eat every time he felt un felt uhblue or felt displeasure and this food seemed to be very satisfying to him. Uh the food had meaningin th at connection. Francis lost her temper uh she doesn't know why but she lost her temper at homewhen she was around other people. I think possibly that was a way to dominate people, a way to getattention at home. And Al played bridge. Bridge meant a lot to him because it brought him prestigeit enabled him to associate with a group he wanted to associate with and it had a lot of meaning.In all of these cases these people had habits because the habit satisfied needs — needs thatthey had and could be satisfied as I indicated by what they did by the habit. Now in order forthem to break the habits that they had they had to have strong urges to break them. And I thinkyou noticed in this in these interviews that.

They all had strong urges to break them. Virginiadidn't want to be teased by her little sister and we know what that is. And she admired some oldergirls she looked up to these older girls and she wanted uh to be admired by them and they didn'tbite their fingernails that was her strong reason or strong urge to break them. Uh Aaron wanted tobe popular and he felt he couldn't be popular as long as he was a fat man he couldn't dance anddo the other things and these represented his strong urges to break the habit. Francis had toplease the boss she wanted to keep a job and in order to keep her job she had to keep her temperwhile others were losing theirs — and and this represented her strong motivation. And Al wantedto have more time to do all the things he should be doing and this represented his strong urge tobreak the habit. Now even that wasn't enough. In.

Al's case he pointed out very clearly that wasn'tenough. He wanted to give up this habit of bridge playing but he couldn't until after he hadother means of satisfying those needs. And he said that when he got married when he beganteaching school there were other satisfactions and then the habit broke itself. And that was trueof all of these people.Virginia found practiced chewing gum instead of biting her fingernails.Aaron diet dieted and he found that that brought him attention and praise and he was practicingnot eating rather than eating. Francis practiced holding her temper when others lost theirs andwatching others people lose their temper. And Al and his new kind of life brought him uh taughthim to practice unconsciously almost new ways to satisfy needs teaching and being a family man.Now let's see if we can apply these three.

Principles here to any habit that you mightuh think of. I'm going to take one habit uh the habit of smoking and illustrate what we learnfrom these people with that habit but you can you can take any habit you want and I suggest that youpick out one or two habits that mean a great deal to you and take them and apply uh the principlesthat we're talking about here. Let's take this habit of smoking. What does this mean to you? Canyou remember the first time you took a cigarette like this and put it in your mouth? What what wasit associated with? What need did it satisfy? Uh did you find that the older boys smoked and thatby smoking you you too could identify yourself with them? Or maybe you found that the group thatyou wanted to be with smoked you wanted to have the prestige that this group had and that's whatthis meant? Or it may have meant defiance doing.

Something that an older person told you not to do.It had some meaning it satisfied some need. And the cigarette advertisers people who designed theads realize that. What is a s a typical cigarette ad look like? Uh let's look at uh this boy andgirl that might be posing for a cigarette ad. They seem to be enjoying each other's company.They they seem to be laughing and talking and saying sweet nothings to each other. And inthe middle of all of this is a cigarette. The cigarette in this case and in the case of mostuh ads is associated with everything that you and I think is pleasant – uh stylish people, nicesurroundings, smiles, pleasantness. Now we're not being critical of the advertisers. They're verysmart we can learn a great deal uh about building or breaking habits from them. Uh but certainlyin order to break this habit or any habit you.

Want you have to know what it meant to you andI've tried to suggest some of the things that this cigarette may have meant to you originallyand unconsciously may mean to you now. The second step if you want to break this habit is to havesome strong urges to break it. Well I have here one strong urge one of the strongest I know of– I've got a check here made out to you signed by yourself for $100 the date is now or maybe alittle later. Uh this is what some people can save by not smoking for a year and to some people thatwould be a strong urge to break the habit. Others might remember what their doctor have said tothem. Or a man might remember what his coat said to him in the early years. Or you and I might turnto the newspapers nowadays and see the articles about smoking and cancer. We don't know whetherthese are factual whether it's a proven matter.

Or whether it's still in debate but neverthelessto some people this would represent uh a strong urge to break the habit. But then even that isn'tenough. The next step is new habits. Build up new, through practice, new ways to satisfy needs. Andthis little book on how to stop smoking that I held up at the beginning of the program thislittle book suggests that you and I find other things to do with our mouths. That uh possiblywe uh get some mints or gum or a Coke. The book suggests that we be good to ourselves that uh wefind other ways uh that are satisfying rather than the cigarette smoking habit. And practice these.Now uh there's another habit that I'd like to talk about uh the habit found in the alcoholic. Butbefore I get on to that here is a a statement I came across that's interesting in connectionwith these habits because all of these habits are.

Habits that involve our mouths and we don't thinkabout our mouths as being a source of trouble. But this statement says many of our troubles in lifecome from the use of our mouth — we eat too much, we drink too much ,we say too much, and maybe wesmoke too much. Uh the alcoholic is the individual who drinks too much. Now the typical alcoholicsays I can take it or leave it but in actual practice he only does one of these — he takesit. Uh and he goes along for a number of years and then suddenly he discovers that alcoholism orhis habit is getting him into more trouble than he can live with. He loses a job, gets his familyinto difficulty, and all of these become very disturbing to him. Now let's ask why did he becomean alcoholic in the first place. What what needs are satisfied by drinking? Certainly it's not thetaste. Well what else could it be? If you ask them.

They say, “I feel more at ease,” “I can forgetmyself,” “I can get a little closer to people.” And these are some of the needs that the alcoholicfind. I'm less critical of myself. I don't feel so unworthy. But when he finally decides thathe can't keep his present status of drink, he finally defi decides he's allergicto, it uh he talks it over with people, he works out a new program . Then he may join avery important group represented by this book. The book the group is called Alcoholics Anonymous andyou can get the book uh from your library. It's a story of Bill and how he gave up alcohol. Andif the alcoholic belongs to this group he meets with other fellas who are alcoholic. They telltheir story they begin to see what it meant to them they still meet in groups and sometimesthey still meet in the same places. But this.

Time instead of looking for bottles they look formen and they find other alcoholics and tell their story. Then there's a there's a religious aspectto this movement and the individual begins to become more to feel more worthy and more ableand less inferior. And then he has an program of doing things to for other people — losinghimself by doing things for other people. In other words not only does he have strong urges tobreak but he has all kinds of new ways to satisfy these needs which he practices day after day.Well we talked about breaking habits. We've seen some people that break habits. We could find a lotof people who tried to break habits and didn't get there but it would be kind of hard to get them tocome on this program. You know Mark Twain says, “It's easy to give up smoking. I've given itup thousands of times.” Well it's easy to find.

People in the same boat, but it's hard to get themto come on a program like this. But I have one boy that I would like to introduce to you who's goingto tell us about his attempt to break the habit of smoking and what happened. Come in Kent, good tosee you. How are you? Have a seat. How long were you smoking when you decide to break the habit?About 3 years I'd say. Uhhuh and then you decided one day to quit. Why?Well I read the book, that book, on how to stop smoking. The argument soundedreasonable so I thought I'd try it, Sort of a challenge to you.That's right. And what how did you do it?Well I just uh followed the directions in the book.And what happened?.

Well uh I got a lot of attention from my friendsand everything. They found out I was going to stop smoking or had stop smoking and they tempted mewith uh cigarettes and all all kinds of things. Blew smoke in your face maybe and triedto get you to go back but you didn't. That's right.And that was very satisfying to you. But why did you quit the no smoking habit in in 4 days?Well I uh after about 3 days, well they all assumed that I had quit smokingand so they left me alone. I see. And you no longer got any attention. Nowcigarette smoking must have meant a lot to you? Well it uh I felt that it helped me in uhsocial positions and uh made me feel more at ease and gave me something to do with my hands.Thank you very much Ken for telling us about that..

You see what happened in Kent's case? Uh cigarettesmoking meant a great deal to him and he didn't have strong urges to break it as he pointed outuh it was just a challenge a whim and as long as he got results he didn't smoke. But when the boysbegan to forget that he was breaking the habit of smoking and didn't tease him and tempt him anymoreuh he went back to the old habit. Now he never did practice many new ways to satisfy these new needs.He didn't have strong urges to break, he didn't practice new ways to satisfy these needs, andthe needs were very strong, and as he indicated they were all tied up with cigarette smoking.What have we said today? We have said that you and I can break habits. But we can't break themmerely by wishing to break them uh because habits are a part of us because they satisfy needsand they're going to be with us as long as.

They satisfy those needs. We have to have strongurges to break the habit and then not only do we need these strong urges because that's not enoughwe have to have a new way of life, new habits, and new attitudes uh that will satisfy these oldneeds. The habits are there for a reason. They are satisfying and they're satisfying things thatare very important to us and they'll stay there if unless we find new ways to satisfy the needs. Nowif we find new new ways to satisfy the needs it's not so hard to break the habit. Because they havewe have to just practice because the habit is a part of us. But eventually that habit will fall bythe wayside and a new habit will take its place. Thomas [A] summarizes this very well whenhe says, “Habit is overcome by habit.” I hope you'll be with us on other programs whenwe talk about you and how you feel and act. And.

Until then think about and talk about some ofthe things that we mentioned here. Bye-bye. Not In Our Stars is conducted by Dr Fred McKinney,Professor of Psychology at the University. The program is prepared for television by Dr FredMcKinney and W.A. Hillix. Directed by Charles sigsbee. Not In Our Stars is a production of thetelevision service of the University of Missouri. The preceding program was produced forthe Educational Television and Radio Center. This is National Educational Television.

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