How changing perception of time can stop an addiction
Have you ever been addicted to something? That urge that pulls you to act in some way can be overpowering but usually leads to results that are not in your favor. Whether your addiction is as benign as just one more episode of a miniseries, smoking cigarettes, or a drug-fueled impulse of intense self-destruction, there are similar habits of time perception that are common to all patterns of addiction. When I help people use NLP for quitting smoking or stopping any addiction, I know that by turning their attention to a different perception of time, and a deeper connection with their body, they can often make big changes pretty quickly. You can apply these understandings on yourself and may even be able to quit smoking or stop any addiction right now.
1. Stop being here now- People use time and perceive time in various ways. Depending on the context, time sometimes moves slowly, or time can even ‘fly’ when we’re having fun. We might dwell in the past, imagine the future, or get immersed in the moment.
Being here now makes us unaware of consequences that will happen later. While this is a good strategy for meditation, making love, and doing yoga, but it’s a bad one when we’re indulging in behaviors we’d rather stop.
Yet that’s how it feels when we get hooked on something- you’re only doing one, ”right now’. The compulsion to indulge makes us forget about how much we’ll have to pay later. Take for example these poor people who lose their jobs after getting sucked into watching too much Battlestar Galactica:
Battlestar Galactica, drugs, and cigarettes can do similar things on the mind’s perception of time. If you want to stop a behavior, don’t be here now, think of tomorrow, and the days after that. Do the math and add up all the experiences you’ve been indulging in ‘until now’. Bring into your awareness a timeline that stretches some days, weeks, months, and years into the future and the past. If what you imagine makes you look and feel bad enough, your motivation to stop will suddenly intensify.
2. Well, you’re not smoking now are you? In the three languages that I know, someone who “smokes” can call themselves “a smoker”. Someone who had an addictive behavior can be labeled as ‘an addict’. When a behavior that is done from time-to-time becomes an identity, the neuro-linguistic representation of the identity is that the behavior happens ALL the time.
Take an example of someone who complains, “I can’t stop smoking”. Chances are they say it without a cigarette in their hands. If it was true that they ‘can’t’ stop, they would literally be smoking all the time. You could simply point out that “well, you’re not smoking now are you?”
Behaviors don’t go on continually all day long and through the night during sleep. By drawing your attention to this you will notice that most of the day, you’re actually a non-smoker. When you can extend being a non-smoker incrementally another five minutes, an extra ten minutes is not going to be a problem You do it all the time in fact, sometimes an hour goes by without noticing. Only 12 hours of not smoking and the carbon monoxide in the blood go down to normal. Within 24 hours your lungs will be working noticeably better. Eventually you’ll look back and say “I used to be a smoker”, or you can make that decision now. How much time has to pass before you think of it as being in the past? If you’re not smoking now, you might already be a non-smoker. Remember, you are you. Behaviors are behaviors. A behavior doesn’t go on forever.
3. Associate into the consequences – As a short term pleasure becomes highlighted in awareness, there also comes with it a dissociation from the complaints of the physical body. A surge of dopamine into the neurons brings about a high or sensation of pleasure which can overwhelm the awareness of the pain in the lungs, the increased blood pressure, and heart rate. Some people dissociate from the harm being done to the body for so long that they end up hospitalized and smoking through a tube installed in their throats.
The key is to be aware of the ongoing physical feedback you get from your body. Become more aware of your body, associate into your body instead of dissociating from it. We have all felt a bit sick from eating greasy or sugary foods from time to time yet went back to eating it again. But if you dwelled on it and make that causal link in your mind that eating X = feeling bad ‘just enough’ to hit that personal threshold, you are less likely to do it again.
A practice of yoga can really expand physical awareness because you will spend that session mostly associated into your body’s feedback. An increasing awareness can transfer into many other areas of life. Then when faced with a decision to do something that actually feels bad, your body will have a stronger say in the matter. This can make it surprisingly easy to make some new and different choices. Yoga was what helped me become so much more aware of my body’s feedback that I was able to stop a drug habit without struggle.
So if you aren’t yet doing something like yoga or meditation, you can start associating into your body and really become aware of what you have been doing to yourself. Do it until repulsion is felt and deeply associate into it. Everyone has a threshold where that one more straw eventually breaks the camel’s back. Lower your own threshold so you’re not willing to put up with tubes in your throat. See the lines on your face getting deeper. Feel how increasingly hard it is to breathe. Lower your threshold further until even next week’s consequences are just too much to bear. By vivifying this to yourself until you reach that threshold and you say ‘enough is enough’ and you can easily make the decision to stop now.
Summary: 1) Don’t just be here now, think of a timeline which includes the past and the future 2) It’s just a behavior, not an identity. Most of the day you’re not actually doing the behavior. Form your self-concept around that instead. 3) Deeply feel your body and dwell in the negative consequences of the habit
Do you agree? Have you used similar techniques with yourself or others? Please leave your comments and join the discussion!