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Posted: September 20, 2009 12:30 a.m.

The good thing about being bad

 Most of us are governed by our own set of rules and tend to behave in socially acceptable ways. But misbehaving, or acting in ways we’d normally think improper, can be good for our souls. Misbehavior can boost our mood, provide us with a sense of liberation, stimulate creativity or make for some great memories.

 A healthy approach to misbehaving, experts agree, is to occasionally break rules, norms or expectations in a manner that causes no harm. In this manner, we can experiment with roads not taken to ensure the path we are on is right for us. Misbehavior usually affirms our established ways, but on occasion can uncover a better direction to steer our lives. According to Rebecca Webber of Psychology Today, "If we never misbehave, we’ll never know what we are missing…and it could be something great."

 Acting improperly can cause some fear. "Whenever you do something out of your comfort zone, you are going to feel anxiety," says Aaron Seltzer with the William Alanson White Institute. The experience of anxiety is not a sign of doing something wrong, just counter to your programming. If you really want to experience personal growth and achieve a different understanding of who you are and who you can be, there aren’t any shortcuts. "You have to be willing to face a challenge that is more than you thought you could handle," says Seltzer. It is this type of "stretching" that leads to growth and an expansion of a person’s sense of self.

 We can force growth by making ourselves go to intimidating parties, or show up at events where we think we don’t belong. This makes it easier to do it the second time, and the third time. "The sense of liberation tends to last much longer than the particular experience, and ultimately you’ll be free of any artificial constraints," states Webber.

 When stuck in a rut, try one of the following suggestions from Rebecca Webber:

 Dress goofy — rummage through closets and find something outrageous to wear to work.

Tell a tall tale — make up an insane story for the next stranger you speak with, such as the telemarketer who calls after dinner, or the guy sitting next to you on the bus.

 Crash a party — Put on celebratory clothing and head for the fanciest hotel in town on a Saturday night.

 Have sex in a new place — In the car, at the park, in a secret place….think like a teenager.

 Go rogue at work — March into your boss’s office and share your ideas for improving the business.

 Attend an age-inappropriate event — Go to senior citizen’s bingo at the VFW hall or attend the homecoming game of a local high school.

 Go on strike — Tell your family they are on their own for dinner/homework/laundry tonight. Instead take a bubble bath and go to bed at an obscenely early hour.

 Remember, people who take risks go further in life. So go out there and start misbehaving.

 C. Kirven Weekley, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with offices in Covington and Norcross. He specializes in the evaluation and treatment of adults for depression, anxiety, relationship problems and medical issues. He can be reached at (770) 441-9244.

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