Posts filed under ‘behavior change’

A Lesson From the N Key

Earlier this week I got a new keyboard replacement, so I have a working N key!!!  Believe it or not, for a while there I actually struggled more with the new keyboard than the broken one!  I still kept hitting Ctrl-V out of habit and I started to have to consciously think about hitting the N key.  I had used the N key since high school.  I had only used Ctrl-V for two weeks.  Yet Ctrl-V was my default keystroke.  It is amazing how the human mind can change its behavior and habits. 

This may sound like a trivial example of a behavior change, but do not underestimate the power of precedence, no matter how small.  In fact, it was small examples that helped me feel equipped to change my behavior towards vomit.

In 2002, I started to see a cognitive behaviorist to address my emetophobia (fear of vomit).  This seemed like a daunting task– an impossible task.  My brain had two decades worth of training to react with fear and anxiety.  I spent two decades worrying about food poisoning, the stomach flu, motion sickness, morning sickness and even drunk people puking on me.  How could I possibly undo behavior that was so engrained into my being?  Infeasible!  Then I remembered I had done it before… on smaller scales. 

From my 4/14/2002 Journal Entry:

One thing I realized is that I can teach myself new behavior.  I taught myself running – to become a running person even though I’ve hated it all my life.  I taught myself to love fresh brocolli.  And here’s an interesting one.  I taught myself to change the way I write the number two.  All my life it has been like this:


One year when I was doing Christmas cards I made myself make my twos in a different fashion because I thought it looked nicer.


I had to think about it for a while and make myself do it, but now it is so natural to do it.  In fact, drawing those other twos felt weird now even though that format reigned for two decades.

I have in the power of my mind to change my behavior and you know what.  I think this [, tackling my fears,] can be done.

I was right!  It could be done!  I didn’t happen overnight (more like 12-18 months), but eventually those incumbent reflexes were replaced by fresh reactions.  Just like with my 2’s and the Ctrl-V N, it took conscious thought, practice, time… and the mind’s natural ability to retrain itself.

It was frustrating at times this week, when I went to type an N and I found a whole paragraph of clipboard text inserted in its place.  But overall, I celebrate those mishaps.  It reenforces the lesson I needed so desperately in 2002.

I can change.

May 13, 2007 at 1:43 pm 7 comments

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