Mental Health

Self Improvement

Mandy Kloppers

How to change your behaviour for the better

In order to change your behaviour for the better, you need to establich what your existing pattern of behaviour is. Many of us engage in unhelpful behaviour but it has become such a habit that we don’t question it. We continue down the same destructive path and continue to be our own worst enemies. When we start to be more self aware and understand our triggers and subsequent thoughts, feelings and ensuing behaviours, we can begin to positive process of change for the better. This post is focused on avoidance as an unhelpful behaviour.


Therapists often use the above intervention to help a client make positive changes.

TRAP – Trigger, response and Avoidance Pattern

Use TRAP to identify what you are currently doing that isn’t working for you.

Trigger – this relates to the upsetting event that invokes the unhelpful self sabotaging pattern. This can be an internal trigger (a thought) or an external trigger – something that happens in your environment. For example: You have an argument with a friend.

Response – this relates to your thoughts and feelings that result from the upsetting event. Example: You feel that your friend is mean and has misunderstood you. You feel angry.

Avoidance Pattern – Specific things you do to cope with these thoughts and feelings (avoiding, escaping, withdrawing). Example: You decide not to contact your friend for a long time. (avoidance). You drink too much or eat too much (escape).

Ask yourself:

What are the short term consequences of my avoidance/escape  pattern?

This could be that you don’t deal with the issue and it doesn;t get resolved. It may also mean that your distress is prolonged. You may feel relief at first by escaping or avoiding but in the longterm it won’y be helpful at all


What are the long term consequences of my avoidance/escape pattern?

The long term pattern could be that you lose friendships or that you end up an alcoholic or overweight.

TRAC – Trigger, Response and Alternative Coping

Ask yourself what you can do that is better than avoidance in the long term. Avoidance does not make the issue go away.

Ask yourself how you can act that is in line with your values?

What will be the best course of action to improve your well being?


What are the short term consequences of my alternative coping?

What are the long term consequences of my alternative coping?




Trigger: Wife/husband not spending much time with me anymore

Response: He/she doesn’t care about me. He/she doesn’t care about me. He/she doesn’t love me anymore.

Avoidant Pattern: Isolate yourself. Make sarcastic comments. Stop asking wife/husband to do things for you anymore.

Short term consequences: Continue to feel unappreciated. Atmosphere in the house remains tense.

Long term consequences:  Husband/wife may ask for a divorce.


Trigger and response as above.

Alternative coping: Tell your wife/husband how you feel. Ask them what they want from the marriage. Show an interest in what they are doing. Invite husband/eife to do something with you.

Short term consequences of alternative coping/behaviour:  You will know where your relationship is going. You’ll feel better because you are making an effort even though it might make you feel a bit anxious.

Long term consequences of alternative coping/neghaviour: You might improve your relationship with your partner and feel closer.

The next time you find yourself upset over something – write down what the trigger was, what your thoughts and feelings were in response and whether tyhe behaviour was useful and helpful. It normally is if the upsetting event is resolved and put to bed quickly. If it is prolonged then there may be self sabotaging behaviour going on. Think about alternative ways to respond. If you respond in a different way, you will get a different outcome. Learn to switch it up and experiment in life. Our thoughts affect how we feel and our feelings (and thoughts) guide our behaviour. If we are responding to negative or unreasonable thoughts, we might very well end up engaging in behaviour that worsens the situation. TRAP and TRAC is a simple way to look at the patterns of current behaviour and problem solve ways to respons differently for a better outcome.

Mandy X

Photo by Steven Ritzer on Unsplash