Put into Words the Payoffs of and Arguments for Indulging.
Part of the power of addictive thinking is that it remains unexplored, like a black box whose workings remain concealed. Expressing the appeal of an urge can reveal the gears and springs by which the apparatus did its formerly mysterious work. Interestingly enough, compelling “reasons” to succumb often pale in the cold light of day. Even when they don’t, at least we become more aware of the rationale behind acts that may otherwise seem senseless. As crazy as such thinking may seem when we’re back in our right minds, it’s helpful to know the nature and logic of the trance that precedes our lapses.
When you’re “in the mood” to indulge, acknowledge the appeal of your habit. Think about the advantages of and justifications for pursuing it. List as many as you can out loud or jot them down. To get the process going, you may want to complete the following sentences: “It would be so nice right now because …” “I wouldn’t, except that …” “It’s not as bad as it’s seemed in the past because …”.
Thank Your Destructive Habit for What its Been Trying to Do For You.
We think we can build momentum toward kicking a habit by focusing only on the things we hate about it. In truth, it can be helpful to honestly acknowledge the positive things a bad habit has done for us, or at least the positive things we were trying to get from it. Recognizing the positive intent behind “senseless” behavior helps us to identify our needs and frees us up to start meeting them in other, more adaptive ways.
Imagine you had the chance to communicate with your destructive habit. Compose a letter. List everything you’ve relied on your destructive habit for. Keep your eye out for the positive intent behind the behavior that may not seem to have any redeeming features. You may even thank your habit for any positive intent you can identify, if you can do so sincerely. You might thank it for the “good times,” which have kept you coming back for more even when its overall effect has been destructive. You may approach this like a termination letter, as though you’re sending someone who has been working for you off to retirement. “There was a time when I couldn’t have let you go. But, I now recognize that you’re more of a hindrance than an asset. Here’s what you’ve done for me … Here’s what I asked of you, but you could never quite pull off …”
Clarify the Connection Between your Actions and Their Effects by Cataloging the Negative Consequences of Your Destructive Habit Over the Years.
It’s easy to ignore the effects of a destructive habit because they’re spread out over a span of years and distributed throughout various areas of life. However, it’s important to make the connection between our behavior and its costs and benefits so that we can weigh them more honestly in the heat of tempting moments.
Over a couple of days, build a list of the effects of your destructive habit over the years on various aspects of your life including: social, occupational, emotional, intellectual, marital, spiritual and financial.
© 2008 © 2013 Mark Chamberlain