One of the most common methods for dealing with temptations or
unwanted thoughts is self-distraction. The ordinary person tries to
think of something else, say the chair he/she is sitting in, but before
long the unwanted thought or feeling is on his/her mind again. So,
since thinking about the chair didn't work, he/she tries to think about
something else, maybe the knot in his/her stomach this time. The
process goes on and on like this. It does keep the unwanted thought
out of your mind fairly well, but afterwards the method may produce
even more of the unwanted thoughts or emotions. This is because
every time you see or think of the chair, or become aware of some
sensation from your stomach, etc., you think of the unwanted thought
or feeling again. Thus, it is better to use only one distracting thought,
preferably something pleasant, such as your favorite hobby, vacation
spot or even a very enjoyable, absorbing part of your work.
Robbins (1991) cites a case of a chocoholic who got a lot of
attention because of his love of candy. Robbins told the chocoholic to
only eat chocolate for several days. After about four days, he was sick
of chocolate, making it easier to give up his 4-bars-a-day habit (see
method # 12).
STEP TWO: Practice the disruptive process mentally before
having the real experience.
Try to accurately anticipate situations where an old unwanted habit
will occur, an strong emotional impulse will erupt, or an unwanted
obsession will continue and continue. Practice until the idea of when
and how to interrupt the process is well ingrained (see method #2).
In the case of an obsession, say a worry, you need to select and
prepare in advance alternative topics to think about. Otherwise, a
worrier will just shift from one worry or depressing thought to another
one. Select only one positive topic to think about (as a distracter from
unwanted topics), perhaps an enjoyable hobby, some pleasant aspect
of your work, or maybe you could think about praying and God. You
need to practice using this topic by imagining the onset of the
unwanted thoughts and immediately turning your attention to the
more enjoyable topic. (Don't forget to also use environmental factors
to control your thoughts. If depressed, be around fun, happy people,
get active in interesting tasks, make plans for the future, search for
beauty and good, exercise, clean up and look good, etc.)
Consider a variety of additional ways of responding to or solving
the needs or concerns underlying the unwanted behaviors or thoughts:
avoidance and change of the environment (method #1), assertiveness
and self-esteem (chapters 13 & 14), forgiveness (chapter 7), a desired
or substitute response (methods #2 & #11), paradoxical intention
(method #12) or scheduling the worry, and decision-making (chapter
13) instead of continuing the worry or bad habit.
STEP THREE: Try out the method several times, starting with the
next opportunity; observe the results.