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Habitual Emotions: Navigating Anxiety in Relationships

Emotions are powerful. They can drive our actions, shape our relationships, and colour our experiences. Sometimes, our emotional responses are so deeply ingrained that they become habitual. This means that even when we've done the work to manage these emotions, challenge the thoughts that trigger them, and develop strategies to handle the situations that cause them, the emotions can still surface. This doesn't mean we're failing in our efforts; it simply means that these emotional habits are deeply rooted.

The Habit of Anxiety

Take anxiety, for example. You might have always felt anxious in certain situations, such as public speaking or meeting new people. Even after learning to manage your anxiety, understanding the irrational thoughts behind it, and preparing yourself thoroughly for these situations, the anxiety might still appear. This can be frustrating, but it's important to recognize that this habitual anxiety is just your mind's way of communicating with you. It doesn't have all the updated information about your coping strategies and personal growth. Instead, it's relying on old patterns.

Emotions in Relationships

This habitual nature of emotions can also show up in relationships. Imagine you're in a loving, trusting relationship, but you still get worried when you can't get a hold of your partner. Thoughts of infidelity might creep in, and you might feel the urge to over-text or call, even though you know your partner is probably just busy or has their phone on airplane mode. These thoughts and behaviours are remnants of past insecurities or experiences, and while they might not be as intense as they used to be, they still make an appearance.

Recognizing Habitual Emotions

The key to dealing with these habitual emotions is not to try to eliminate them completely but to recognize them for what they are. When these emotions arise, acknowledge them without judgment. Understand that they are habitual responses, not necessarily reflective of the current reality. This perspective allows you to relate to your emotions in a healthier way.

Managing Habitual Emotions

Here are some strategies for managing habitual emotions:

1. Acknowledge and Validate: When an emotion arises, acknowledge it. Validate your experience without judgment. For example, "I feel anxious right now, and that's okay."

2. Check the Facts: Remind yourself of the reality of the situation. Use logic to counteract irrational thoughts. For instance, "I can't reach my partner, but I know he often puts his phone on airplane mode."

3. Practice Mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness practices to stay present. This helps in recognizing that these emotions are just passing states, not permanent truths.

4. Develop a Response Plan: Have a plan for how you'll respond when these habitual emotions surface. This might include deep breathing, going for a walk, or engaging in a distraction activity.

5. Communicate: If you're in a relationship, communicate your feelings with your partner. Let them know that while these feelings might arise, you understand they're not based on reality and you appreciate their support.

Emotions as Signals, Not Commands

Remember, emotions are signals, not commands. They are there to communicate something to you, but you don't have to act on them as if they are facts. By recognizing habitual emotions and understanding their origins, you can choose to respond to them differently. This shift in perspective allows you to live more freely, without being constantly swayed by ingrained emotional patterns.


Emotional habits are a natural part of our psychological landscape. They show up because they are used to showing up. Recognizing them, understanding their roots, and developing strategies to manage them can lead to healthier emotional responses. By doing so, we can relate to our emotions in a way that honors our growth and fosters more fulfilling relationships and experiences.

Thanks for reading!


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