If you are a compulsive house cleaner, being asked (by a
therapist) to spend twice as much time cleaning can be taxing. If you
do it, however, and the therapist then seriously suggests that you dust
everything, wash all the dishes (clean ones too), and wax the floors
twice a day, it becomes ridiculous--hopefully, you can even see how
funny your cleaning needs are becoming. The procedure of asking the
person, or yourself, to do the unwanted and already-too-frequent
behavior even more often is called "paradoxical intention." This
method is discussed in detail in chapter 14, method #6.
Many unwanted habits become unpleasant when they are
continued for a long time, i.e. satiated. Example: if one smokes too
much it may become nauseating, even to the addicted smoker
(especially in a very small room). Being required to bite your nails or
to worry continuously for 5 minutes every hour may become
unpleasant (see "aversive conditioning"--method #18). Thus, these
behaviors should occur less frequently.
In some instances, paradoxical behaviors result in the person
saying "enough is enough" and learning a new behavior. In other
instances, the continuation of the unwanted behavior becomes
punishing and so we drop it. In other situations, an unwanted behavior
that seems determined to occur in spite of your opposition will go
away as soon as you start demanding paradoxically that the behavior
occur more frequently (like a crying child, who hopes he/she is
bothering you, stops when asked to cry harder and longer). In the
opposite direction, Wegner (1989) contends that obsessions develop
because we try to suppress them, which causes the thought to come
on even stronger. Therefore, the solution is to "stop the stopping" and,
instead, just let the thought occur or perhaps encourage it.
To reduce compulsive, repetitive behaviors (or thoughts).
STEP ONE: Determine how often the unwanted behavior is
See method #8
STEP TWO: Set a goal of drastically increasing the frequency of
the unwanted behavior.
In many applications, the increased frequency eventually makes
the situation unpleasant. For this to happen in some cases, the
behavior has to be done in special circumstances--like smoking with
your head in a box. In other cases, the habit just naturally produces
discomfort if overdone.