An Invitation. . .

. . . to choose the path of greatest advantage
rather than yield in the direction of least resistance

- George Bernard Shaw

I am a psychologist who has dedicated a long career to treating Addictive Disorders. If you have developed a pathological relationship with a substance or activity — that is, you knowingly and repeatedly act counter to your own interests because you have developed an excessive appetite for a particular incentive  — the path of least resistance will probably take you to a bad outcome. You will have to exercise your will to follow your path of greatest advantage.

Phenomenal Research

"Know thyself!" says Socrates. When you understand the cause-and-effect principles that determine your reactions to the things that happen, you can develop the practical skills to intentionally influence the course of events.

This interactive guide contains a wide range of ancient and modern tools to research the subjective phenomena you experience. Appreciating how cause-and-effect plays out in your subjective universe gives you the ability to have a mindful influence over your reactions to the things that happen and hence the power to exercise a willful influence over the course of events in the objective universe.

Thought experiments and experiential invitations supplement the text and provide an opportunity to research the self from both the psychological and the phenomenological perspective.

The Power of a Will

Volition is the faculty that separates humans from more primitive creatures. The actions of animals and young children are determined by cause-and-effect principles in the same way that the principles of hydrodynamics determine the flow of water. The more you understand yourself the more influence your rational mind has over your reactions to the things that happen. Knowing yourself is not just, as Aristotle proclaimed, the beginning of all wisdom, the knowledge has some practical benefits. For those of us who have developed a pathological relationship with an incentive, the most urgent and valuable payoff — the low hanging fruit —  is the ability to escape the traps of addiction and self-sabotage.

While determinism may seem incompatible with the idea that you have free will; in fact it is understanding the cause-and-effect principles that operate in your subjective universe that make the exercise of will possible.

The point of exercising your will is that it produces better outcomes than yielding in the direction of least resistance. As far as we know, you get one shot at life, and it would be a shame to trade what is most important to you for the trivial payoffs of chasing an addictive incentive.

To follow your path of greatest advantage, you have to appreciate your core values and develop the willpower to act in accord with them —  even in the face of stressors and temptations that would motivate you to defect.

Our Collaboration

If you had no Willpower you would be bound by the laws of cause-and-effect to follow the path of least resistance. To act in accord with your interests and principles you have to over-ride the pull of nearby incentives. This capability to act as intended during high-risk situations emerges gradually as you develop the procedural skills to influence experiential phenomena. On the following pages you will encounter a wide range of exercises and thought experiments that give you the opportunity to explore, play with, and learn to influence subjective phenomena.

Among the intended outcomes of this course is developing your ability to influence your emotional state. My contribution is to present the information and exercises that enable you to mindfully cope with whatever crises the future has in store for you. Your part of the collaboration is far more heroic. You will have to exercise your will during the critical, high-risk moments when doing so is particularly difficult.

Having a collaborator who has accompanied many individuals through the passage you are about to undertake can be helpful in several ways — e.g., tipping you off to known pitfalls and iatrogenic treatment strategies. Nevertheless, the passage ahead is a difficult one, and following this course will not spare you the unavoidable sacrifices required to extricate yourself from the trap in which you find yourself. However, taking on a great challenge not without its own rewards. "Love your fate!" says Nietzsche. The adventure ahead is sure to be an interesting one.

As a Psychologist I have been accompanied many clients through the passage that you are about to undertake. Each journey is different. The challenges waiting for you are different than anyone else's. The path ahead is for your steps alone.

To make this manual useful for a wide range of users I have included many methods and approaches to behavior change from which you may choose. The downside of offering so many options is that their descriptions can be confusing and the text descriptions can become mind numbing.  To avoid getting bogged down in reading, or put to sleep by passively consuming abstract text, I encourage you to navigate through the material in ways that keep your focus on developing the practical skills you will need to manage the crises you are bound to encounter.

Your Path of Greatest Advantage Begins Now

To follow the path to change you must first begin it. Below are different starting points. Please choose the one you judge to be best matched with your needs at this time, and then exercise your will to take the first few steps. If you can get into it, this may be the right path for you.

  • You can use this web site as a conventional book and proceed in a linear fashion from beginning to end. The navigational bar to the left lists the chapters in sequence down the page. Alternatively, you may step sequentially through the course by clicking the link at the bottom right of each page. If it is not urgent that you take immediate action, you can develop a good conceptual foundation for the challenges ahead by following this Default Path at the bottom of each page.

  • Studying what happens to people as their addictive relationship matures offers a cheap education about the challenge facing you. The Stages of Change model will give you an overview of the stages of this passage, as well as tools to help you through each one. If you have any ambivalence about ending your relationship with the incentive, this is a good place to begin. Click here to learn about the stages of an addictive relationship, and which stage I am in.

  • While each addictive trap is unique, there are some common entrapment mechanisms. To get a feel for how your trap works, complete the Trap Detector Self-Test. The trap with the highest score is likely to be most urgent. Strategies and tools to help you understand and solve the trap are provided. Take the fastest path to to action: The Trap Detector Self-Test will help you identify the most serious addictive trap you face and how to escape it.

  • If negative emotional states — e.g., Depression, Anger, Anxiety — are impairing your problem-solving ability, then developing your emotion-focused coping skills may be the first priority. To develop your ability to manage your emotions so you can act mindfully during crises, work with the links in the box below:

Emotion-Focused Coping Tools

Do you have a dual diagnosis?

Addictive and Mood Disorders are highly correlated. If your puzzle involves solving a mood disorder, now is a good time to get a baseline of the severity of your symptoms by taking the self-tests below:

If you score in the moderate or severe range on either test, you probably meet the diagnostic criteria for a mood disorder that requires treatment in its own right. Failure to address the mood disorder will make the already difficult task of preventing relapse downright impossible. If you are not currently working with a clinician, please feel free to contact our office to discuss how best to cope with moderate or severe emotional states and possible underlying Mood Disorder.


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