habits. The stimulus for avoidance responses, such as shyness, may
not be obvious; indeed, there may not be any external event, only a
fleeting thought that you will have to carry on a conversation if you go
to lunch with co-workers. Your avoidance (because it reduces stress)
may occur almost unconsciously, yet the environment provides cues
for you to withdraw. Method #9 will help you discover the stimuli
controlling your behavior.
STEP TWO: Avoid situations that lead to unwanted actions.
Provide warning signs. Break the chain early.
We can either avoid an environment entirely or change parts of it
so that it is less likely to produce the unwanted behavior. Examples: if
a group of friends push you to do things you'd rather not do, avoid
them. If you and your parents frequently argue about a certain topic,
steer the conversation away from that topic.
Thoughts and fantasies are frequently triggers for our actions.
Thus, dwelling on temptations, as we found out in chapter 4, makes it
harder to resist. Depressive or angry thoughts may give rise to
unwanted actions. Thoughts can be stopped or changed to be more
Providing warning signs certainly changes the environment.
Examples: a timer set to ring after one hour of TV viewing, a medical
picture of cirrhosis of the liver placed on the refrigerator door as one
gets out his/her second beer, a picture of a gruesome accident stuck
on the steering wheel until the seat belt is fastened.
It is also helpful to recognize that many unwanted behaviors are
the outcome of an easily recognized series or "chain" of behaviors.
Each step along the chain of events serves as the stimulus for the next
step. Examples: Over eating, getting drunk, getting in an argument,
having an affair, etc. For instance, to gorge on cake and ice cream at
home, one has to go to the store, pick up the fattening food, pay for it,
store it at home, prepare it, and eat much more than needed. To have
an affair, there is usually a series of events: one would approach an
attractive person, make an effort to impress him/her, suggest lunch or
a drink, talk about personal matters, do enjoyable things together,
indicate an attraction to the other person, touch each other, go where
you can be alone, be affectionate, get undressed, and "make love."
Obviously, if one wants to avoid an affair, a person had better avoid
the first few steps because it gets harder to stop the further along the
chain one goes. That is, "break the chain early!" Otherwise, one is
beyond self-help! The early steps become the warning signs to stop.
Method #4, relapse prevention, gives the details for coping with
temptations and compulsions.
STEP THREE: Provide cues or environments that prompt desired