Specific Coping Tactics

What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing

- Aristotle

The D.E.A.D. Tactics

Four classic tactics that put distance between you and the incentive:

  • Delay: Put time between you and the incentive. An excellent delay tactic is the Short-Term Commitment—a commitment to abstinence for a brief period of time. You can only use this tactic if you are willing and able to make a commitment you will not break (see The Impeccable Path ).
    • Example: “Whenever I notice a warning signal, I will commit to remaining clean for the next hour.” (This does not mean that I will lapse at the end of the hour. If I still want to lapse at the end of the hour I’ll delay for another hour).
  • Escape: Put geographical distance between you and the incentive.
    • Example: “Whenever I start thinking about surfing dangerous sites I leave the computer at once.”
  • Avoid:Prevent problems: Avoid people and places associated with the addictive activity. Don’t be taken in by Apparently Irrelevant Decisions that would move you closer to the incentive.
    • Example: “Once I caught myself thinking, ‘I’ll go to happy hour to improve my relationships with coworkers,’ I recognized it as a classic set up for relapse.”
  • Distract:Use the method of Intentional Trance Formation, that is, purposely aim your attention to a thought, image or other stimulus that evokes a more self-serving motivational state.
    • Example: “Whenever I catch myself thinking about sex I will ask myself Will’s Question: ‘What is the best use of my attention right now?" Your mission is nothing less than to transform your motivational state in real-time. You may have to redirect your attention back to the intended target several times and for an extended period of time to produce the intended trance formation.

Detachment Tactics

The acceptance of current experience as absolute, real and permanent is part of many addictive traps. Detaching from current experience and observing it from a dispassionate perspective is a key skill to escape these traps.

  • Rate your discomfort or desire on a 10 point subjective scale (Subjective Units of Discomfort/Desire Scale—SUDS): Your experience will change over time. Focus on observing it go through its changes. This can be considered a method of switching from the doing mode to the being mode of observation with acceptance. Noting the strength of your motivation without seeking to change it or act on it is a mindful path to awakening.
  • Use a warning signal to detach from your local trance and remind yourself: “This is the High-risk Situation I have been preparing for; it is critical that I perform as intended now!” Reading the Reminder Card is often a good next step.
  • Journal your passage by recording your observations of internal and external events.
  • Engage in a meditation exercise.
  • Pray.

An entire section of this course is dedicated to emotion-focused coping tactics, please visit Emotion-Focused Coping Section.

Cognitive Tactics

  • Values Clarification - The creature you inhabit is usually blind to your core motivation and is always biased to over-value immediate payoffs. Once you recognized that your state-dependent resources —  such as motivation and appraisal — have been distorted by local conditions, you may be able to remind yourself of your core values and hierarchy of motives. To awaken yourself out of a mindless sequence, you may find it helpful to pause or slow down the ongoing sequence of behavior so you can reconstrue the meaning of the situation. Remind yourself of your genuine interests and principles and consider this as your opportunity to follow the demanding path of greatest advantage.

  • Our beliefs influence our emotions and behavior. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has focused on the relationship between beliefs, emotions, and behavior and has become the most successful treatment approach for mood and addictive disorders. CBT seeks transformation by developing the discipline of adhering to the rules of inductive and deductive reasoning and catching thinking errors before they distort subjective reality and create negative emotional states. Please see our List of Pathogenic Beliefs.

Thinking patterns are pathogenic when they elicit motivational states that are counter to your interests and principles.  They are hard to change because they are so familiar that we tend to accept them  without scrutiny. However, if you can learn to recognize thinking errors you can escape their pathogenic influence: below are some examples:

  • “I’ll just have a few drinks, and I’ll control it this time.” – This is Fortune Telling. The prediction may not be true. An alternative, and more likely prediction, is that this cognition begins the slippery slide to relapse and self-loathing.
  • “I really shouldn’t use” – “Shouldn’t” is moralistic and often elicits reactance and counter-regulatory motivation.
  • “Life is so boring, I deserve a little fun.” – This is emotional reasoning. Life is not boring; the individual thinking the thought is experiencing boredom. In fact, boredom is often the result of avoiding, rather than engaging, the real challenges of life.
    Thought Experiment: Catching thinking errors.
    Take a Meta-Cognitive perspective and monitor your thinking for cognitive errors. When you catch one, identify it and think it through from the perspective of inductive and deductive reasoning.  See if there is a particular pattern to your thinking errors.

Experiential Tactics

In contrast to the covert tactics described above, some reactions to stress and temptation involve overt behavior:

  • Thinking it Through (Using the Decision Matrix during a crisis) – It is likely that you will occasionally encounter local conditions (internal states or external events) that would increase your risk of lapsing. At precisely those moments, your cognitive resources are likely to be compromised. Focusing your attention on the decision matrix during or just before a high-risk situation can help.
    • The purpose of the decision matrix is to elicit a repulsive reaction to the incentive that will be strong enough to compete with its pull. [Note: Research suggests that in the beginning imagery of the negative consequences of relapse tends to be more powerful than imagery of the beneficial aspects of success, and so it is recommended for the early phase of the passage. After you begin receiving some of the payoffs of following your intended path you may change to an approach that focuses on imagery of the benefits of success.]

  • Take a Breather – Change your state by eliciting a relaxation response. A good method is to dedicate about 3 minutes to slow belly breathing as you focus on a mantra.  For example, focus your attention on a word or phrase such as, “I’m calmness throughout.” An important function of the mantra is to minimize the opportunity for ruminative self-focus.

  • Other Relaxation Procedures – This course includes several relaxation audio files.

  • Pull up into Adult – Elicit state change by intentionally changing your posture and demeanor.
    • Example: Change your posture, breathing and mind set in order to elicit a trance formation or an awakening. Specifically, inhale deeply through your nose as you raise your chest and assume an “adult” posture, and then act as if you had a cool, rational, problem solving orientation.

Hypnotic Tools >>

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