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Guest article by Greer Parry
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Discover how the use of mindfulness and development of self awareness can be used to overcome addiction. Learn how acceptance of changing reality coupled with a focus upon our own behaviour can be used to challenge even the most self destructive behaviours. It is only by realising that we have a choice that we can make one.
Greer Parry is an addiction counsellor and therapist with over 20yrs clinical experience. Greer is also a holistic healer and chirologist who empowers individuals to discover their true potential . Greer writes about her passions and at the time of this writing she was offering free resources at Palm Reading Review However, this link came up as a dead link in my last links search so I can no longer link to her.
Taking Control of Yourself and Your Destiny
Hi my name is Greer and I've been working with people to help them control the behaviour of addiction for many years. Central to the process of taking control is self awareness and actualisation. By that I mean the ability to notice our reality as it is, not simply as we perceive or wish it to be (more of this later.) The next step is to accept the things we can not change and finally to make the changes that will enable us to achieve our goals. Whatever they may be.
Now this may all sound a little confusing so let's use a real world example to discover how noticing our reality (as it really is) can help us take control of ourselves and ultimately our destiny.
Let's use Sandra as an example (not her real name of course.) Sandra is a 39 yr old married mother of two teenage children. She came to me to address her nicotine addiction. This is broadly what she told me: "I know I need to stop smoking. It's bad for my health, makes my breath stink and all my food tastes the same. I want to stop, I'm ready to stop, have the will to make change and I'm committed to doing so."
However I've tried to quit 3 times already this year and every time, within a few weeks, I start smoking again. So clearly I'm missing something but don't know what it is?"
"The first time I quit I lasted a week or so but then my husband had some bad news at work and we were both really worried about our families future. It turned out O.K but the stress was too much and I needed some relief. The next time I lasted a bit longer but we went to three parties in the space of a week and everyone else seemed to be smoking and I've always enjoyed a cigarette with a glass of wine. I can' really remember why I started again last time but I know there was a good reason."
Does this seem like a familiar story? Do you start with good intentions to improve your health, even make preparations about how your going to achieve your goals and yet find yourself revisiting bad habits, no matter what safeguards you try to put in place.
I told Sandra that the problem is that all the preparation in the world won't make any difference unless you are able to take control of your own behaviour when it matters most. In terms of your addiction it matters most when you are lighting a cigarette. Not when you are thinking about lighting it, not when you regret having lit it, but rather at the actual moment in time when you are in the act of lighting it. That is the only moment when your decision makes a difference. I worked with Sandra to help her understand that she didn't control her husbands employment. She came to realise that she didn't control what other people choose to do at parties and, perhaps most importantly, did not control how she felt about the things that effected her.
Sandra came to understand that her emotional responses to events were both unavoidable and inevitable. We worked together and recognised that when we say we can "stay in control"; what we mean is that we can stay in control of our behaviour. It doesn't stop us feeling the stress or experiencing the disappointment or elation or anger. Are emotions are not in our control.
When we experience these normal, human, emotional responses a heady cocktail of chemical signals surge through our brains and illicit strong physical sensations and psychological reactions. We can not really anticipate what events will occur or how they will effect us. The only thing we can be certain of is that they will happen and we will be effected by them.
For example we don't choose to be upset when our pet dies. We don't control whether out pet lives or dies and neither do we control our emotional response. The only choice we really have is what we then do as a result of the way we feel.
In the past Sandra had learned that when she felt depressed or sad if she smoked a cigarette it temporarily made her feel more comfortable. There are numerous reasons why this may have been the case (a chemical addiction to nicotine is only one of many) but her individual reality was that, when she was sad, a cigarette would make her feel better.
Sandra and I worked together and she came to accept she had learned that she could fix the way she felt by smoking a cigarette. She had taught herself this through years and years of repetitive behaviour. It was no longer something that she thought about. It was a behaviour that she did automatically in response to feeling sad. The emotion came first and then the "autopilot behaviour" kicked in.
When she smoked the cigarette she felt more comfortable and that is why she had consistently stuck with her smoking behaviour for more than twenty years of her life. However Sandra also realised that she could not continue smoking and expect to live a healthy life. Sandra clearly understood that her learned behaviour was effectively killing her.
This is the dilemma of addiction. It doesn't matter what the substance is. Maybe we drink alcohol, smoke marijuana or eat fast food. The problem is always the same though every individual story is different. he behaviour that is destroying us is also the behaviour that we use to cope.
The problem faced by all of us who have ever lived with an addiction is that the problems which emerge throughout life, the things that make us reach for our substance of choice, wont disappear simply because we have chosen to stop using the substance.
Whether I choose to smoke or not all the factors which I don't control will continue. Births, deaths and marriages, taxes and lottery wins, children, pets and ungrateful bosses will all carry on regardless. Life goes on no matter what we do and we don't control the vast majority of it.
Except what we do! That is all we can ever hope to control but once we do then we have genuine power to effect change in our lives. Once we control our present and we have real choice.
So how do we achieve this self control? By being mindful and accepting the reality of our situation. By accepting the things we can not change and by making the changes that move us towards and not away from the things that truly matter to us. But most importantly by understanding that the only time we can make a change that matters is now.
I can not make a choice to do something differently in the past, that time has gone and is beyond my control. I can not choose to do something differently in the future, no matter what plans I may have, because tomorrow is just and idea. It isn't real yet and I can't control it from where I am now. The only change I can ever make is in the present. For example if I am sad because my pet has died and I have learned that having a cigarette will make me feel more comfortable with my loss, I can choose to either accept the way I feel about my loss or try to make myself feel better by having a cigarette. Either way it doesn't change the fact that my pet has died.
However I am only able to actively make that choice if I am self aware and recognise that there is a decision to be made. If I act on autopilot and simply behave as I have always done, without being mindful, then effectively I have no choice and will simply continue the behaviour that is harming me. Therefore, in order to achieve the power to exercise control over our behaviour we first need to learn to be conscious of our decision making and genuinely understand why we behave the way we do. By doing this we can become increasingly aware of our decision making as we are making them.
So I started working with Sandra to enable her to explore who she was. Not who she thought she was and not the person who she would have liked others to see her as, but rather who she actually was.
I take a holistic approach when working with people and use whatever resources they value to enable them to discover their complete sense of self. Sandra was a very spiritual person and responded well to using chirology (modern palm reading) as a means to self discovery. We also worked together to practice mindfulness and to experience the world mindfully. For those of you who may not be familiar with the technique, mindfulness is a form of meditation that focuses upon developing our sensory awareness of present reality. It enables us to experience the world as it happens and behave with awareness of self.
Using these techniques Sandra was able to increase her control of her behaviour when it mattered. When emotional turmoil happened Sandra was able to accept and confront her own emotions. Rather than seek to control them with her former behaviour of smoking Sandra started noticing that her cravings had increased, she noticed that she was stressed, sad or upset. She recognised when she was feeling exuberant and more likely to take risks. In short, Sandra became increasing self aware. And it was this that gave her the ability to seize control of her behaviour because, by acknowledging her present reality Sandra accepted that smoking would not change anything other than her own perception. Therefore, Sandra was able to make a choice and eventually overcame her addiction to nicotine by abstaining from the behaviour that enabled that addiction to continue.
I have been very fortunate to work with many Sandras over the years and am certain that it is only by truly understanding who we are and by controlling what we do that we grow as spiritual beings and achieve our goals.