People often come to counseling hoping that the professional will basically condone what they have already been doing to deal with their problems. Eventually that counselor, if they don’t suck, will gently point out that perhaps, just maybe, the problem isn’t everyone in their screwed up family – the problem is how they are handling their thinking, coping, and life. This is usually a difficult thing to hear and process. Such a revelation may necessitate change in areas the client is not happy to address. They want to be different but they “cannot” change what they need to change. At some point they will turn to their counselor and actually ask for help doing “something they don’t want to do”.
I won’t teach you how to quit doing something you don’t want to stop doing. I have a hard enough time convincing patients to spoil themselves. Besides, people usually do what they want to do. So the question is, what do you want to do?
Here’s the secret – don’t change what you do, change what you want. How easy would it be to quit drinking if you earnestly believed that you hated alcohol and didn’t want it in your life anymore? The key isn’t to convince you to stop snorting cocaine. The key is to help you learn a different way to think about cocaine. A different perspective will change everything.
I have a client who wanted to stop using cocaine so one day he lined up a line of cocaine and then made a second line out of Drano, a horrible cleaner that was under the sink. The two lines looked almost identical and he asked himself, “Which line is worse for me to snort?”
The answer seemed obvious, the cocaine was obviously safer to snort than the toxic drain cleaner. This is the obvious answer and the obvious answer is completely wrong. Snorting the Drano will cause him to become sick and throw up. The experience will teach him never to have that experience ever again. Problem solved. Snorting the cocaine will lead to something that feels good but will take your house and your marriage. It is much much safer to snort the Drano.
You don’t need to do something that you do not want to do. You simply change the way you feel about the cocaine. You consider soberly how prone you are to remember only the good parts of a bad addiction. You allow yourself to believe that you could be happy without artificial stimulants. You begin to dream about life in Normieland. You start getting up in the morning. You get a job. You go to church, or yoga, or NA. You choose to stop entertaining your negative thoughts and force yourself to be positive until you believe it. You come back to life.
The principle applies for almost everything we are dealing with. Radically changing the way we think about life is the ONLY way to find wholeness as we learn to address our inaccurate thinking patterns, our dysfunctional coping skills, and our skewed outlook on life.
As we say around here all the time, “Change your mind and your butt will follow”.
- Self-Medicating (scott-williams.ca)
- Does It Really Matter What You’re Addicted To? (scott-williams.ca)
7 thoughts on “What Do You Want?”
I agree with changing one’s relationship to the “problem” may be the key to transforming it. The need to understand the cause of the problem doesn’t really change anything. I would argue a more intensive submersion into attempting to understand the problem often can give it way too much attention and as a result it will become a larger, more dominating presence. By changing our relationship to the problem we change our perspective and thus gain new resources that can assist us in transformation.
I agree with your approach here. Working as a therapist in long term mental health for many years, I adopted the same types of principles.
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I agree. I’ve been so used to thinking that I need to use mind altering chemicals in my life in order to have fun that it is very difficult to imagine a happy life without them. I need to change my views. Thank you for this thought provoking article. 🙂
I agree that we are responsible for our own responses to stimuli, however when a child is exposed to dysfunction repeatedly and his malady price responses are not corrected they will carry into adulthood. Thus, we blame our families. They are not without fault. We must allow the client to acknowledge the fault of others, as well as show them how it has now become their own responsibility to do something about it and they can no longer play the blame game. Then we teach them new skills and hopefully they keep improving these new good skills and they feel better about their lives. Yes, it is a belief pattern that must change ultimately. I love reading your posts. You put a great spin on things.
Ha! I’m pretty sure snorting Drano would just flat-out kill you. Don’t try this at home. 🙂