Change that sticks. Finally.

Emotional Addictions, part 3 – How to Kick Them!

Posted May 6, 2015

So are you ready to overcome an addiction? What will it be – guilt? worry? anger? or thinking of yourself as worthless? Fantastic! So you know you’ll need to overcome your neurophysiology (I’m assuming you’ve read the previous two blogs) and you know that making a change will be uncomfortable because it throws the body out of its accustomed chemical balance.

But it’s just discomfort, that’s all. And it just comes from your internal chemistry trying to control you. You don’t have to listen to it. It IS possible to change a habit: those hungry receptors that demand you feed the habit? They will give up and die if they’re not fed. You just need to starve them. A little will power goes a long way. And celebrating every success helps. I met a guy recently who celebrated his conquering a chocolate habit like this: Hah! Another chocolate that I passed up, YES! So it can be like that. Hah! Another guilt opportunity that I didn’t drag myself into! YES! Another anger explosion bypassed. And so on.

Let’s get on with how to kick these habits! This post is about the steps.

  1. Get clear about the habitual behavior you want to change (telling yourself you’re not good enough, for example).
  2. Notice the sensation, “craving” or event that happens before the habitual behavior begins. Notice when it happens, be ready for it before it happens. It might be an internal feeling (a little panic or something) or it might be a typical event, like spilling your coffee that then sends you into a fit of self-abuse.
  3. Then, very simply, don’t allow the habitual behavior to happen. The key is to not allow the behavior or emotion to begin. You don’t want to create those chemicals in your body. It’s very much like smokers going cold-turkey. You can make a game of it. Imagine it’s a competition and your job is to outwit the body sensations. Don’t let them win.
  4. It will probably be easier to find a different behavior so you can practice that. This builds new receptors and a new chemical balance that becomes the new status quo. So if you get angry when your partner arrives home late. Be prepared for the next time it might happen. You could instead commit to be grateful he/she made it home safely. It’s a practice and a choice.
  5. Be disciplined. You may have to be a bit tough on yourself to outlast those hungry receptors of your unwanted behavior. But you can.
  6. Celebrate and be proud of yourself every time you choose something different. Let yourself feel righteous about how you beat the old receptors again!

Some tips:

  • Remember that whatever emotion, habit or behavior you’re working to overcome at one time served you well. You can appreciate its usefulness in getting you to this place in your life. So thank it or appreciate it and imagine yourself letting it go.
  • Expect yourself to be successful. Know that you can kick your habit.
  • Treat this as rehab. You do not want to relapse as you really need to starve those receptors.
  • Get used to discomfort. It won’t hurt you; it’s just part of the change process. In fact, it’s essential.
  • Make a plan, get support.
  • Find discipline within yourself and build it up. Imagine it’s a muscle you’re working and enjoy your workouts.
  • Celebrate every win.
  • Know the environments where your unwanted behaviors are likely to show up. Smokers know to stay away from certain people, places and events when they are trying to quit. Or at least prepare yourself when you have to enter that environment and strengthen your resolve to use your new behavior.
  • Know that you are the master of your body and your mind can overcome your body’s cravings.
  • It takes the body some time to shed its receptors and build new ones, give it the time it needs.
  • Don’t give up.
  • It might be useful to start with a small change and develop your capacity to change and then move to larger changes.
  • Read more about how this works in Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza

Please let me know how it goes! I invite comments, would love to hear success stories and even stories about failed attempts. I want to know how these steps are working for people!
And look for future related posts here as well. The interesting thing for me is that I’ve never been a fan of behavioral modification. And that’s essentially what these steps are, just changing the behavior, but in a very disciplined way. There are often beliefs and thoughts that occur before or with a behavior and in the work I’ve been doing for years, I usually approach change by addressing beliefs first. But that hasn’t always been enough; this addiction piece has been a great addition. So I think both may be necessary.
I will be writing about the belief side of things soon. If the above steps do not work for you, there’s likely some discovery work to do to find out what beliefs or thoughts are prompting the behavior or habitual emotions and maybe it’s the belief itself that’s the addiction! So, more to come…

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