common to see drinking or smoking or over eating or procrastination
or TV addiction as the problem, while, in truth, the more basic problem
is the hurt, anxiety, emptiness, frustration, shame, etc. (feelings and
thoughts), which the drinking, eating, escaping behaviors attempt to
relieve. These unwanted surface behaviors are not the real problems;
they are attempted solutions! The underlying feelings are the
problems! Having the will power to stop the unwanted habits is not
enough. You must reduce the psychological pain inside which causes
the bad habits, i.e. our dis-ease. (Chapter 2 made the same point.)
Discovering this internal hurt may be easy; it may be hard even with
therapy; it needs to be done (see chapters 14 and 15).
Sidney Simon (1988) describes another set of barriers to
changing: (1) Having low self-esteem and feeling unable to change or
undeserving of a better life (see chapter 14). (2) Failing to see
alternatives or feeling you can't make or don't have good choices (see
decision-making in chapter 13). (3) Being unsure of what you want
and/or are simply going along with someone else's decisions about
your life (see chapter 3 and assertiveness in chapter 13). (4) Finding
lots of excuses for doing nothing or "Yes, but-ing" and, thus, reducing
your motivation to change. (5) Being afraid to change (see chapter 5).
(6) Feeling alone and unsupported or "I don't need anyone" or "I
shouldn't have to ask for help." (Ask for help anyway!) (7) Demanding
perfection. (8) Lacking the determination or "will" to get the job done.
When changing, the first step is the killer. If you haven't exercised
in months or have smoked for years, the first day is toughest. You
must use willpower (or, if you prefer, motivation or self-talk). You can
strengthen a weak will. Simon suggests building your willpower by (a)
practicing in more and more difficult self-control situations, (b) taking
small successful steps followed by rewards, and (c) planning
alternatives to use when major temptations threaten. Besides will
power, you need lots of other skills. But the hardest part for many of
us will be getting a handle on the underlying emotions causing the
inner pain and creating the barriers. This kind of insight comes from
gaining more and more knowledge about people and from honestly
looking inside your self.
Once we have self-control why do we lose control over some
Baumeister, Heatherton & Tice (1994) do a good job of explaining
our failures at self-control, e.g. giving up during the performance of a
task, losing control over our thoughts or emotions, and letting some
habit (eating, drinking, smoking, buying, etc.) get out of control.
Unfortunately, these authors' work is of limited value because it
doesn't tell us much about how to prevent the loss of self-control.
However, by understanding the process by which we lose control,
perhaps science can help us learn how to maintain self-control. You
will recognize that "blocks," discussed above, have much in common
with "loss of self-control."