Habit Retraining Model:
Promoting Rehabilitation Through Incremental Goal Achievement in the Areas of Love,
Work & Play
By Mike Martelli, Ph.D.
Although the brain cells present when
original learning takes place, and the stored knowledge that sustains important
learned habits, can be erased by injury or illness, the ability to re-learn is
seldom destroyed. Importantly, human beings are the greatest learning organisms
ever to roam the earth. While animals are controlled by instincts, human
behavior is driven by complex learning and the establishing of very complex
habits. From the time of birth, almost everything that humans do is learned.
Everyday functioning becomes increasingly sophisticated through the construction
of a complex sequence of complex habits which are built on top of more basic
habits. The complex behaviors that make up the average humans everyday
behaviors are performed efficiently and automatically because of a hierarchy of
Through converting repeated behaviors into
habits, complex behaviors are performed automatically, freeing up
concentration, energy and effort for other tasks. However, if even some of the
most basic habits are weakened or erased, everyday abilities and routines can
be seriously disrupted and efficiency lost. What was once automatic and
effortless can require the same effort it took before efficient ways of
performing any of the components of daily activities were learned. Fortunately,
even if very basic and important learned habits are erased, newly learned
habits can be developed as replacements.
Importantly, we know what is required for
both learning and relearning. Further, we are discovering that the most
important variables relating to how much can be relearned, and how many habits
can be replaced, are, in fact, our attitudes and expectancies. These attitudes
can either promote and guide re-establishment of new habits, or prevent their
If we think we can't learn, if we think only
the old learning/ way of knowing how to do things are sufficient, or if we
think that only children can or should learn, then we
will undermine relearning. Many attitudes can undermine relearning, and these
attitudes represent rehabilitation poisons.
The essential ingredients for relearning (or
learning) can be summarized as the following 3 P's: (1) Plan; (2)
Practice; (3) Promoting attitude.
Importantly, the greatest obstacle to
learning or relearning is the redirection of energy away from goal directed
activity and toward debilitating activity. Some of the most potent
relearning or rehabilitation debilitating attitudes, or poisons, are
depression, anger and resentment, feelings of victimization, fear, and inertia.
These are the things that take our energy away from relearning and put it
somewhere else. Relearning is challenging, but can become impossible in the
presence of significant internal obstacles.
In an attempt to summarize the adaptive,
facultative, or rehabilitation promoting attitudes characterized by
rehabilitation patients who have accomplished remarkable progress despite
insurmountable odds, the "Five Commandments of Rehabilitation" has
been devised. These commandments serve as a prescription for rehabilitation
achievement. These commandments will be published in a future issue of
Importantly, the envisioning of a
progressively more desirable future is the guiding principle, or magnet, that
pulls persons to their goals. To the extent that one focuses on the vision of a
desirable future, breaks progress down into small, progressive steps, and
develops facilitative habits, incremental movement toward desired goals can be
expected. Importantly, patterns of interpreting events, and expectancies about
how things will turn out, represent predictions of the future. Habitual
patterns of expecting failure or dissatisfaction, or mistreatment, and habitual
patterns of becoming depressed, or angry, or fearful, etc., are debilitative
habits that help drag persons toward failure. In contrast, the single best
remedy, or antidote, is a graduated successes,
self-esteem habit. This facilitative habit is broken down and presented in the
Commandments of Rehabilitation. Making accurate comparisons, learning new ways
to do old things, building one self up and employing positive self-coaching,
and viewing rehabilitation as a series of small steps each requiring
celebration, are some of the important prescriptions
offered by "the commandments".
The antidotes included in the "Five
Commandments of Rehabilitation" are the medicines that interrupt the
rehabilitation poison cycles. Importantly, energy will multiply in a cyclical
fashion. If it proceeds in a negative direction, more and more energy will be robbed
from the healing reserve, wasted in poisonous attitudes, and made
unavailable for relearning and accomplishment. For example, a depression habit
in response to physical losses can reduce activity and hence relearning, which
will lead to more depression by depletion of brain chemicals that protect mood,
and more depression, in turn, leads to poorer progress and more reason to be
Antidotes like the "Five
Commandments", a positive vision of a gradually improved future, and
planning and practicing compensatory behavioral self-control strategies serve
to protect the healing reserve by inoculating persons against depression,
anger, and destructive emotion. This ensures that energy and motivation will be
available so that desired goals can persistently pursued, with each step of
progress adding new energy, hope and effort for the next step. With the
addition of task analyses and scheduling that help promote routines, energy is
turned toward protecting your healing reserve, taking your antidotes, and
letting your goals pull you toward a more desirable future. Remember, anything
that is consistently repeated will become a habit. Therefore, promote the
attitude and activity routines will produce facilitative habits that turn your
energy toward protecting your attitudes, taking your antidotes, and letting
your healing reserve pull you like a magnet toward your goals.
The Five Commandments of
1: Thou Shall Make Only Accurate
Comparisons. Thou shall not make
false comparisons. That is, it is only fair (and adaptive) to compare
oneself to persons with similar injuries, illnesses, disabilities and stress.
It is unfair to compare ourselves to others without similar challenges, or to
ourselves before we were challenged, as this makes us look poor by comparison.
It is fair, however, to compare ourselves to others of similar injury,
challenge, age, etc., as this comparison allows us to accurately measure
2: Thou Shall Learn New Ways to Do Old
Learning new ways, or finding another way to
do desired tasks, vs. giving up & feeling hopeless because the old way
doesn't work, is the key to Challenging obstacles and overcoming them.
...Overcome Thinking that the old way is the best way
(i.e., Stinking Thinking)
3: Thou Shall Not Beat Thyself
Up...Instead, Thou Shall Build Thyself Up! We
clearly understand that when we have a physical injury, such as a broken leg,
getting mad, yelling at, or hitting (i.e., beating up) the leg only delays
recovery, increases symptoms and pain, and makes us and the leg function worse.
We know that pampering the leg, massaging it and coaxing it along gently &
patiently will help it recover. Unfortunately, we too often forget that our
brains are similar. An injured brain will perform poorly when we get mad with
it, or get frustrated. Instead, understanding it, pampering it, being patient,
using pacing & coaxing it along in a supportive way will help you function
your best, and help your recovery and rehabilitation. Talking to ourselves in
supportive and understanding ways (vs. getting mad at ourselves for being
injured) and coaxing things out gently is a good way of building ourselves up
in order to face the challenges of rehabilitation. Rewarding ourselves for
efforts and each small step of progress, despite tremendous obstacles &
challenges, is the best way to build ourselves up!
...Child & Spouse Abuse are recognized as illegal and
immoral....Self Abuse is just as bad!
4: Thou Shall View Progress as a Series
of Small Steps.
Rehab is appropriately viewed One Step At a
Time - by focusing on the gains over where we were when we were one step behind
where we are now, we can focus on the Graduated Successes and feelings of
accomplishment (despite giant obstacles) which will leave us feeling proud and
hopeful and enable us to focus and reach the next small step ahead, and make
progress through the many small steps necessary to make substantial progress.
Focusing on our current gains and small steps of progress (compared to where we
were earlier in rehab and when we were at our worst) will build hope and a
sense of challenge and growing victories (versus comparing ourselves to before
the injury, which only makes us feel sad & depressed.
Inch by Inch & It's a Cinch. Meter by Meter, Life is
5: Thou Shall Expect Challenge &
Strive to Beat IT.
By Converting Complaint (I don't want)
To Challenge (I want), We Can Make Our Future
Through Our Vision and Driving Thoughts.
We will actively shape our future by focusing on a vision of hope, challenge,
control & satisfaction. By changing our focus from complaint and feelings
of victimization & helplessness & pessimism, we can avoid giving up and
giving in to a pessimistic prophecy of dissatisfaction and doom. (cf. "Thou
Shall not Pretend to Have a Contract Guaranteeing
Freedom from Injury, Disease, Illness or Unfair circumstances or Significant
Phone: 804-270-5484 Facsimile: 804-346-1956
Rehabilitation is the
Sytematic Process of
& Accessing Opportunities
(Of Disired Goals)
in the areas of
Love, Work and Play!
The Purpose of Rehabilitation
© 1997: M.F. Martelli, Ph.D. & "Obstacle
Busters" Cope Group Members: Jan Flowers, Tom
Byrnes, Jack Hodges, Dr. Joel Finklestein,
Brain Stephens, John Mitchell, Tom Hale, Jim Fenerty,
Evelyn Phillips, Rick Peters, J.P. Gibson, John Mitchell, Tom Hale, Jim Fenerty, Evelyn Phillips, Rick Peters, J.P. Gibson, Danny
Burnett, Chris Hignutt, Tommy Peden,
DavidBrummet, Sarah Goldmann,
Matt Tacey, Jay Weaver & Lynn Batley,
David Mourer, Rudy Lee, Patrick Quinn, Dennis
Weymouth, Laura Watts, Laura Hunter, Barbara Watts, JD Smith, Jamal Alkayed, Charles Smith, Linda Beales,
For Additional Habit
Retraining and Rehab Related Readings
Neurophysiology & Recovery Requirements, Catastrophic Reaction &
Personalities, Sample Protocols for Emotional Management, Etc.
HeadsUp - A Great Online Survivor Newsletter with many features
and good articles!