Learn to Recognize and Lean Towards Pleasant and Unpleasant Emotions.
When you experience one of feeling states that can lead up to your destructive habit, break it down into component parts.
A compelling emotional state can seem monolithic, like a chaotic swirl of intensity. Research shows that writing out or verbally describing feelings can help neutralize them. When we write out or describe aloud a dissecting analysis of the emotional charge we’re feeling, it becomes substantially less charged in the telling. It’s sort of like a sound engineer stripping a song of its emotional impact by playing its separate tracks individually (i.e., guitar, vocals, etc.). As a formerly overpowering feeling states dampen, they lose some of their capacity to perpetuate destructive habits.
Next time you experience a potent feeling state, rate its intensity from 0-10. Then identify and write out or describe aloud the elements that make up your current emotional state, such as: events, thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, expectations, visual images, memories and inclinations. After you’ve written or verbalized, again rate your distress from 0-10.
To Weaken the Overall Potency of an Urge, Separate Out its Various Components and Consider Them Individually.
This technique is based on the same rationale as Dismantling Feelings. The goal is to eventually practice this with addictive urges. It’s helpful to begin by dismantling more mundane urges, like the inclination urinate, doze off or scratch your nose.
For example, drink a large glass of water. Later, when you feel the need to go to the bathroom, take time to attend to the actual sensations you experience. On the one hand, the need to urinate is very familiar to us: we experienced it every day throughout our entire lives. Nonetheless, we have rarely, if ever, been truly aware of the exact nature of the experience. Instead of experiencing the urge, we’re in the habit either giving in and going to the bathroom, or, now and then, resisting the urge because we’re driving in a car or sitting in a meeting. At such times, we try to distract ourselves from the urge so that we experience as little discomfort as possible.
New Way to Handle it.
Instead of handling it in your typical way, focus on what you feel and where you feel it. What, exactly, are you experiencing at this moment? At first it might seem like pain. Our minds quickly label uncomfortable sensations as “bad.” It’s okay if your mind does, just note both the actual sensation and the thought about it: “There’s that sensation in my lower torso … and there’s that thought that it hurts.” Then go back to the actual sensation. It may be painful, but it might be more accurately characterized as pressure, tightness or warmth. Accept whichever of these it is and keep paying attention. Exactly where do you feel it? Try pointing from the front, the sides, and the back of your body to see if you can zero in on the location of the sensations. Where is it relative to your hipbones and to your lower stomach muscles? Is there a distinct spot where you feel it or is it diffused throughout an area? If you were to take the sensation out of your body and put it on the floor, what might it look like? What shape would it have? What texture? What color? How big would it be?
Holding Sensations and Awareness
As you attend to what it feels like to need to urinate, gently holding those sensations in your consciousness, you will probably also become aware of other experiences. For instance, you may find yourself bracing and tensing up. If you do, just attend to the bracing. Treat it just like you treat the feeling of having a full bladder. Notice where you feel it and which muscles tense up. Tell yourself, “there’s that muscle tension.” Perhaps you’ll think, “If I don’t strain, I’m gonna pee my pants.” Tell yourself, “There is that thought that I might pee my pants. It’s just a thought.” This distinguishes it from the physical sensations you’re experiencing.
Over time, notice how the sensations of needing to urinate naturally intensify and diminish on their own, even when you do nothing about them. Some people find it helpful to rate the intensity of the sensations from 0-10, and track how they rise and fall.
© 2008 © 2013 Mark Chamberlain