signs in #1, if they turn you away from temptation, yield negative
reinforcement, i.e. they stimulate behavior that reduces your worry
about overeating, smoking, etc. Recognizing the bad consequences not
only punishes the bad habit but reduction of these thoughts reinforces
good self-control (however, excessive dwelling on food and how
terribly delicious, sumptuous, and tantalizing food can be for you, may
very well build the urge to eat).
Remember most people deny how disgusting and dangerous
smoking or drinking or over-eating is. If you are lying and telling
yourself, "Oh, I carry my weight well," there is no payoff for eating
18. Self-punishment: A dieter could decide to run an extra mile
every time he/she ate more than the allotted calories; that's called
correction. And he/she could agree to show a group of friends or a
class an unattractive photo of him/herself in a skimpy outfit if he/she
doesn't lose five pounds a month; that's punishment! Nailbiters can
force themselves to show their nails to a class every week. Smokers
could flip their wrists with a strong rubber band when they have a urge
to smoke and twice during every cigarette.
Or you can de-condition yourself: sit before a mirror and indulge
yourself (stuff in food, eat your favorite candy, bite your nails...), until
you are very uncomfortable and disgusted, then do it 5 more minutes
(Freidman, l975). Likewise, a fairly successful aversive conditioning
method is "rapid smoking"--the smoker is required to take a drag
every 5 or 6 seconds while doing something unpleasant, like cleaning
dirty toilet bowls, or while thinking about an unpleasant experience,
like being hurt or failing or looking foolish. The rapid smoking has to
be done until you feel you can't take it anymore, maybe 8 to 10
minutes. After doing this, almost 40-45% stopped smoking for at least
six months (Masters, et al, 1987).
The effects of punishment are being researched (Matson &
DiLorenzo, 1993). One person punishing another frequently causes
hostility; self-punishment may work better, but little research has
been done on this topic. My experience is that people quickly "forget"
to administer the self-punishment (like flipping your wrist). Yet,
support groups can effectively pressure the self-helper to report
his/her progress and confront him/her about relapses.
19. Mental processes: Unwanted behaviors and temptations, like
a cold beer, can be made less attractive by imagining them paired with
something unpleasant, like imagining vomiting into the beer. This is a
mental process using classical conditioning or aversive conditioning,
and usually called "covert sensitization." Homme (1970) suggested an
operant approach using a series of thoughts: think of the unwanted
behavior or the temptation--} think of the awful consequences--}
think of resisting and being "good"--} think of good long-range
consequences and something pleasant--} think of something to do
right now, like play tennis, read, or go shopping.