How Do Habits Form in the Mind?

Habits 2

Q. How do habits form in the mind?

Lewis Harrison Answers: Habits are often deeply embedded in our subconscious”. They understand this. These embedded patterns are what neo-Reichians  (those influenced by the theories of  psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich)  often call “cellular memory” and they in our thoughts, language and behaviors.


As a habit is forming, three things are taking place. The first is the “cue”. The cue is the thing that causes your habit to come about, the trigger to your habitual behavior. This could be anything that your mind associates with that habit and that you will automatically let come to the surface habitually. More often than not it is the need to survive and the belief that the cue will contribute to that survival. Once survival seems assured at least for the short term there is likely to be an expectation of pleasure and the formation of habits to bring that pleasure about. Once one has access to pleasure the next element in the domain of the “cue” is the avoidance of pain or discomfort. In fact it is generally believed that person will avoid   The behavior is the actual habit that you are an expected discomfort and abandon a present pleasure to do so.

Recently we held a conference on stress management at the Catskills Bed and Breakfast – -. We had speakers  and training session on habits and hypnosis.  We also  offered corporate on-site chair massage during the breaks. During the conference the question of how do habits form kept arising.

The next factor in the formation of a habit is the behavior, often know as “exhibiting”.  Here one actually exhibits a thought or behavior.

The final factor is the “reward”. Here the expectation that was grasped in the cue stage actually comes to pass and a person has a motivation to repeat this though or behavior. If the a positive feeling either from pleasure or the lack of pain comes about the individual is likely to repeat the pattern, and thus continues the “habit loop.”

Habits 1

Some habits are initially be triggered by a goal or some “utility”. Over time that goal becomes less necessary and the habit becomes more automatic. Over a period of time the goal or utility may become irrelevant to the habit. The habit continues to exist for no other reason than that it is familiar.

Interesting there are a variety of digital tools, online or mobile apps, that have been created designed to end habits or support habit formation.

There for instance  apps and other systems that uses gamification,  – using strategies core to video game design video games to increase habit forming patterns in real life tasks through the addition of  rewards such as experience and material gain such as bitcoins, gold, or other incentives.

  1. Can we intentionally develop habits of incompetency?

Lewis Answers: Unfortunately the “Peter Principle” (we rise to our level of incompetence) has already made its mark in soft ware design for creating habitual patterns.  It seems that most of the designers of these apps seem to have already reached their level of incompetence.  Many experts who have reviewed these tools, claim that many are poorly designed.  It is not the technical elements that pose the problem. It is the lack of understanding concerning economic behaviorism, intuitive choices and applied game based thinking as well as a clear ignorance of the theories that lie at the foundation of  how habits are formed that are the problem. The apps may be fun to use and at times challenging but they fail to support the development of automaticity which is their primary purpose.

The place where habits are likely to form and where memes and RTPs are likely to take hold is through consumerism, especially shopping habits linked to particularly vulnerable emotionally driven “sign posts” in life. These include “major life moments” beginning school, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Valentines’s Day, Confirmations,  vacations, educational certifications, first dates,  graduation, marriage, birth of first child, birthdays, anniversaries, promotions at work, moving to a new home, divorce, and deaths.

Organizations and business who have an understanding of “Big Data” can purchase data and use metaheuristic algorithms  to isolate these events and take advantage of the marketing opportunity. , Google, Facebook and other social networking platforms have mastered this approach to habit formation.



Click below to observe a nine minute video interview Lewis  did with the Award winning journalist Phyllis Haynes on why  people suffer:



Lewis Harrison is the author of sixteen books including

“Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times” a book of  concerned with personal development, human potential, stress reduction and business excellence.




 Master SNR Kingle 11-1-15

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Lewis Harrison speaks to organizations and businesses of all types and offers seminars throughout the world on his work on the art and science of decision making through spiritually motivated  “Game Based Thinking”

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Lewis Harrison offers stress management programs throughout the United States. Part of this company is his corporate chair massage company, provides seated and chair massage for stress management seminars and trainings as well to special events for  meeting planners and meeting professionals in New York City, New Jersey Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Greensboro NC, Florida and other major meeting and conventions venues.



Lewis also offers private fee based coaching programs. 

Call him at 212-724-8782 for more information.




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