Can you save people from themselves?

This is one of the most fascinating aspects of personality. People tend to keep following certain patterns, even if it is clear to everyone else, and often to themselves, that their behaviour is playing against them.
ClearerJust as an example, I illustrate this with the warning on packs of cigarettes. You would think that the warning is crystal clear. Yet, it does not stop some from keeping on smoking, almost like it is a cure for cancer. They know it is quite unhealthy, but simply decide to ignore the warning.
However, I would not limit the description to just seriously addictive behaviors, because the “oops factor” covers many more areas.
For instance, there is the one who simply cannot keep his mouth shut when he should and end up saying something that will get him in trouble. Or the person in debt, who simply cannot resist buying more stuff with his credit card, while he should not. Or the daredevil doing silly stunts and ending up in the frequent patient program of the local hospital. We all know many similar examples of people not able to help themselves from getting in trouble.
So, what causes this? And how can we help others to break their patterns, thus bringing a positive change?
The cause very often lies in the inability of the individual to recognize the pattern he follows, and the consequences of it, or because the person thinks that it will all come out well in the end. This is very clear in the case of serious addictions such as drug abuse, alcoholism, smoking or gambling, but even the more mundane behavioral “masochism” we can find quite a few similarities with addictive urges. This lack of awareness, and sometimes denial of the problem, is quite difficult to tackle, because such a behavior is deeply rooted in the person’s unconscious. In most cases, this behavior is the result of habits that have been taken a long time ago without anyone acting by then to correct them. Over time, they have become part of the individual personality and considered “normal” by this person. Unless these people will come to the conclusion that they have a problem, they will not see any reason to act on it.
Just like with serious addictions, it will take a lot of patience and many hard facts to make the person realize what pattern he follows, and in some cases only a major shock such as an accident, a disease or the death of a close friend will be able to shake him enough to really decide to change.
It really is quite amazing how much easier it is to save someone from someone else, or from something, than it is to save them from themselves.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

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