HABITS, ADDICTIONS AND EMOTIONAL CONTROL

Do something different about it!

We are naturally creatures of habit, and in many ways this is a good thing. Without habitual responses we wouldn’t know what to do each time we were confronted with a situation, and this is why we have learnt  certain behavioural patterns in our lives as a way of responding. Many of these are ‘good’ habits: they serve us well by making our lives easier.  ‘Bad’ habits, on the other hand, have unwanted consequences. Some common examples of bad habits are:

  • nail-biting
  • hair-pulling
  • teeth-grinding (bruxism)
  • cheek-biting
  • nervous tics
  • blushing
  • stuttering
  • overeating
  • smoking
  • drug abuse

Typically, the unwanted problem behaviour was once a way of coping with a different problem – perhaps it was feelings of boredom, anxiety, or loneliness. Over time, the newly acquired habit became a problem in itself, perhaps more of a problem than the problem it was supposed to solve in the first place. The good news is that there are proven therapeutic methods that effectively reverse unwanted habits.

What do we do in the sessions?  Sessions include awareness training, where you will learn to monitor your habit and identify triggers and associated behaviours. You will also learn self-hypnosis so you can relax and repeatedly practise a different behavioural response, until it naturally becomes second nature you have essentially un-learnt your unhelpful habit. The newly established ‘good’ habit will feel just as automatic, natural and habitual as your ‘bad’ habit beforehand. This is exactly how you picked up your habit in the first place – by displacing another reponse. Now you can consciously take charge of this process and choose to change your behaviour by design!  Free yourself from habits that enslave you; choose habits that serve you! Hypnotherapy works in the same way the brain naturally makes and breaks habits –  but faster, methodically and with your conscious consent! It is effective because it targets unconscious processes.

This may sound overly mechanistic to you, but frequently that is the gist of the intervention. Depending on the reasons why you picked up your habit in the first place, we will also address any unmet basic (emotional) needs that you may still be having.  This is particularly likely if your habit is overeating or some form of substance abuse.

What is the difference between purely behavioural habits and addictions such as smoking or drug/alcohol abuse? Technically, they are all  habits – even substance abuse has a behavioural component to it that makes it a habit reversible in just the way I have described, and every habit is, in some ways, a behavioural addiction. However, there are other aspects to consider when it comes to addictions to substances. With overeating, smoking and drug abuse, success depends largely on other issues such as motivation,  confidence and a number of cognitive interventions as well as community support.

Typically, with addictions, there is an underlying emotional disturbance. People frequently experience unwanted feelings and don’t know how to make them go away without indulging in their habit. Eventually the habit often even makes the unwanted emotion stronger as it merely helps suppress it. This is when you get cravings, which translate into strong feelings of neediness and sadness! Perhaps you even find yourself acting upon an emotion only to later regret it – this is particularly true for people who experience excessive anger. Other emotions people who have anger frequently experience, for a variety of reasons and often in combination, are anxiety, guilt and sadness.

If this sounds familiar to you, then you could benefit from hypnosis. Cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy is a powerful solution-focused tool to help you gain a sense of emotional control that you probably never even thought you had. Emotions are there for a reason; they are trying to tell us something about how we are living our lives! Once you can acknowledge and accept an emotion (rather than suppressing with a habit until you find yourself having an outburst, acting on the emotion blindly) you get closer to resolving it, because you will be able to act on it rationally, step by step. It doesn’t matter whether it’s because of a recent break-up, a divorce or problems at work or at home, or whether the feelings have been with you for so long that you cannot even remember how it all started – what matters is that you start doing something about it  in the ‘here and now’ so you can gain emotional control! You may find that this improves the quality of your relationships both at work and at home.

To some extent we respond in a particular way quite simply beause we have learnt to do so. This may seem like a somewhat simplistic, reductionist approach, and it is certainly no cure-all for all emotional disorders, but you may be surprised at how effective behaviourist approaches can be even at addressing  (and improving) emotional issues. As you practise your newly acquired coping skills and begin to feel more in control, your sense of self-efficacy improves, and you begin to feel better emotionally.

Our emotions are very powerful responses to our perceptions and experience of what is happening in our lives, but at the same time they determine our perceptions and experience: so it  is a permanent feedback loop that we want to be in charge of so we can make sure it spins in a positive direction! A cognitive shift will bring about am emotional shift; similarly any emotional change will bring about a change in your thinking. Also, to take this one step further, both your thoughts and your feelings will determine your actions, and your behaviour in turn also influences both your thoughts and your emotions, so that you actually have a very powerful 3-way feedback loop, a system that feeds on itself pepetually. By doing nothing at all, you will have it doing what it’s always been doing. It is up to you to get in there and take action!

Disclaimer:
If you have recently been diagnosed by a medical professional as having major depression and are currently being treated for it, or if you have suicidal ideation, I will only be able to help you after speaking to your doctor and getting their consent. Similarly, with some physically addictive drugs (including alcohol), depending on your pattern of usage, it may be dangerous to attempt to wean off the substance on your own or solely by the means of hypnosis. Both these cases are medical issues, and therefore expert medical help is required.  While I care deeply about helping people with depression or substance abuse and know that hypnosis is a powerful therapeutic intervention that can create lasting positive change in those who are ready for it, in these cases it cannot replace emergency medical care where it is deemed necessary by those legally qualified to do so. Hypnosis can only be used as an adjunct to appropriate conventional medical treatment, and with the explicit consent of the medical doctor in charge of the case. Please speak to your doctor first if you are in doubt.

Advertisements