Psychological Self-Help

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20. Extinction: This process involves the removal of all
reinforcement for an unwanted behavior. But since the pleasures and
unconscious payoffs of consuming things are naturally pleasurable or
conditioned and automatically present, there is no way to instantly
turn off these reinforcers. That is, food, drink, and cigarettes will still
taste good to the user. The oral habits of eating and drinking have
been paired with need-satisfying situations thousands of times. Even
unconscious purposes may be served, such as getting fat to make you
less sexy, drinking to help you feel more sociable or powerful,
becoming out of control so someone will help you, not eating to run
the risk of death, etc. These unconscious consequences can't all be
eliminated but some can be counterbalanced with realistic self-
awareness and self-criticism. Many other undesirable outcomes can be
avoided. Examples: the drinker can ask friends, in advance, to refuse
to clean up your clothes or vomit; if asked maybe they will avoid
laughing at how much you drink or eat (if not, avoid them); you can
ask your friends to tell you if they prefer that you not smoke (to
counter your pleasure); you can avoid fishing for compliments and
comments about not looking overweight, etc. You can take away some
of the reinforcements from consuming but not all. The reinforcement
of other unwanted behaviors may be easier to eliminate. 
Completing Your Self-Help Plan
What other self-help methods can be used within other
non-behavioral parts of the problem?
The 20 methods above are all directed towards changing our
behavior, not our emotions or skills or attitudes or unconscious
motives. In every problem situation, something is probably happening
in all five parts of the problem (see chapter 2). Ask yourself: What is
going on at other levels? What can be done? 
Part II: The conscious emotions
As you probably realized long ago, and as I have repeatedly
emphasized, oral habits--eating, drinking, smoking--are often
intimately tied with emotions. The emotions may not be obvious to
you; it may just seem like a habit to overeat or overdrink or smoke.
There is no way of knowing for sure all the causes for your unwanted
habits. However, if some bad habit seems especially hard to change,
certainly consider the possibility that the behavior satisfies a basic
need, avoids something unpleasant, or is in some way associated with
an emotion. 
The questions you should ask yourself are: What needs and
emotions are connected with this habit? How can I take care of those
needs (without continuing the unwanted behavior)? Should these
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