Coping With Discomfort

An Exercise For Building Urge Busting Muscle

Discomfort is a fact of life. It is especially a fact of life when you have strong urges to engage in addictive behavior and you resist them. Part of the SMART program includes tools to cope with urges – below we’ve included an exercise that may help you cope with the discomfort of urges.

  1. Let yourself feel the full experience of discomfort – no avoiding!
  2. Once you’ve felt it, do a gut check – get an overall estimate of the discomfort level. Let’s say on a 100-point scale, you’re feeling discomfort at a 75.
  3. After you have identified your “discomfort level” divide the discomfort into two pieces:
    • The literal, actual sensations you feel and
    • The “I don’t want these sensations!” reaction that you have toward the literal, actual sensations.
  4. Once you’ve made the “cut,” see which piece is bigger. Most folks report it is the “I don’t want these sensations!” part, not the literal, actual sensations part.
  5. Now you make a second cut. This time cut the “I don’t want these sensations” piece into
    • I just don’t want these sensations” and
    • I MUST NOT have these sensations.”

Which of these two pieces carries more discomfort? Most people say it’s the “I MUST NOT have these sensations” piece. You can work to minimize the discomfort by the “I MUST NOTs” by reducing how much you actually believe them – specifically, try disputing them:

    When did I start running the universe? Since when did all sensations have to check with me first before showing up inside my body?”

When you dispute, does the total amount of discomfort go down? It often does for many people.

Some people report they have trouble finding the “I MUST NOT have these sensations” piece and only have the “I just don’t want these sensations” piece. Whether you find the “MUSTS” or not, you can often lower the discomfort associated with either piece with other disputations like these:

    I may not like these sensations, but they are far from AWFUL when I compare them to the possibility of what I might do if I use again – like getting into a car accident and hurting myself or someone else”

    I may not like these sensations but I am able to stand them. Especially since I know that in a few minutes they will likely be gone.”

    It doesn’t make me a crumb, a worm, or a louse because these sensations are part of my addictive behavior history. Maybe I wouldn’t have them now if I had acted differently in the past, but lousy past behavior doesn’t make me a louse. Besides, by continuing to resist now, I will likely have fewer of these urges in the future.”

Try this exercise and share your thoughts on how it worked for you – either in the comments, on the SMART message boards or in the next SMART meeting you attend.

Article by Hank Robb, Ph.D.

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