In my practice, treating addictions, I often see that for the addiction to persist the mind needs to avoid thinking in a long term manner and instead merely focus on the short term.
This reaches the level where any thoughts about the long term consequences of the behaviour are actively ignored and thinking highlighting the short term rewards is encouraged, reinforced and nurtured.
Equally, it seems more difficult for addiction to really take hold of the mind that recognises that recovery may be emotionally painful in the short term as one has to deal and face up to their negative mood states and psychological difficulties (with the right support) but that in the long term there is a real reward of more freedom, peace and capacity for happiness.
This can be neatly packaged in the following phrases:
- Not engaging in addictive behaviour: short term pain = long term gain.
- Engaging in addiction: Short term gain = long term pain.
This is not different than investing and getting into debt. In effect giving in to addiction is a short term loan of relief from the suffering and internal turmoil experienced but once the effects quickly wear off, one gets tolerance levels going up or runs out of money then it’s time to pay back this with tears and suffering plus a hefty interest.
Not using on the other hand is a bit painful at first as we don’t get immediate relief but we invest for the future by learning how to progressively have a solid and sustainable way to cope with our suffering.
The question then arises: How can the mind be guided to start looking at this more?
In my practice, I often find that asking the person to think about what they really value in life for a day and then come and discuss with me is a great start.
We explore what it is that they want to achieve to realistically fulfill their potential and feel happy and peaceful in the long term and then I ask whether their current behaviour is helping them achieve this or in fact making them less likely to be happy and get what they want from life.
The combination of realising what one really values and how this is in contrast with addictive behaviour often starts a process of realignment between the long term and short term in the mind and with the reinforcing effect of our unique treatment programme this can yield great progress.