The Reminder Card

Contrary to what people assume, the normal state of the mind is chaos. Without training, and without an object in the external world that demands attention, most people find it difficult to focus their thoughts for more than a few minutes at a time. It is [easier] to concentrate when attention is structed by an outside stimulus.

- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

It is nearly certain that you will encounter situations that will transform the rational entity reading this text into a different creature, who may not be as rational. The cognitive abilities you now enjoy will be occupied by the crisis at hand, and your motivation will be influenced by local conditions.  If only that biased, less resourceful version of you could take advantage of what you figured out when you had the luxury of a quiet environment and the time to fully engage your cognitive abilities.

The Reminder Card© was developed as a portable prosthetic device for your state-dependent faculties. It is about the size of a dollar bill so that you can carry it with you always to remind you of the understandings you came to when you had access to your Rational Processing System. When you find yourself in a high-risk situation, whip out the Reminder Card and read what you have written.

The Motivation Side

The Decision Matrix was used earlier to help you finally decide. It is also an excellent tool to use during the crisis to help you think your decision through. During high-risk situaions, people tend to argue with themselves.

A common description of the conflict: "Part of me really wants to use, but another part of me knows I should not." It turns out that both sides of this conflict are pulling the person toward relapse. Any thought of the incentive, positive or negative, is pulling you toward relapse. The longer the internal dialogue goes on the more certain the lapse. Instead of arguing about whether you should or should not lapse, think it through.

The first box is the immediate psotives of lapsing. Do not deny them or argue with them. Rather shift your attention to the next box: The short-term negatives of a first lapse. But do not just read the words; experience them. For example if "feeling guilty" is written, get yourself to experience what that guilt will feel like. Imagine how you will actually fell tomorrow if you lapse today, what is your self-image, self-talk, view of the future,etc. When you get to the long-term negative box, let your imagination go wild and really explore in detail the imagery that will elicit strong motivation to avoid that awful outcome.

The Beliefs & Intentions Side

While the Decision Matrix reminds you of how you appriased the motivational contflict when you had access to your best cognitve resources the Beliefs and Intentions Side reminds you of what you believe when you have access to your cognitive gifts and how that enetity recommends you handle the conflict.

These are My Beliefs

This section provides a place to document what you now know to be true, but may forget during high-risk situations. Compose valid statements that will be helpful to you when you read them during a crisis. Below are some generic examples; yours may be more idiosyncratic.

  • If I don’t end my relationship with this incentive, I will bring misery and poverty to myself and my family.

  • The incentive is my enemy, not my friend.

  • Even though I may think I can do a little, I cannot. Once I start there is no stopping me.

Implementation Intentions

Because your cognitive resources will surely be compromised, you will not be clever enough to devise a way to cope with a crisis while you are in it. You will need to figure out a successful coping tactic in advance and be reminded of how to execute it at the moment of crisis. Just as the Decision Matrix reminded you of the costs and benefits of your relationship with the incentive, the Implementation Intention Sectionreminds you of what you intend to do when you encounter the high risk situation.
Relapse crises have a beginning, middle, and end; the entire episode is often quite short. Your performance during these moments is critical, but as you know, your appraisals and response tendencies will be biased in ways that promote relapse. To succeed, you will have to take these realities into account. There are two levels of defense: 1) preventing the first lapse and 2) preventing a single lapse from turning into complete relapse.

    • How will you respond when you are faced with local conditions that would promote a first lapse?

    • If you have a first lapse, how can you prevent it from becoming a relapse?

It is essential that you develop a plan to cope with these crises in advance. Hopefully, you will never lapse and planning for it is a pointless exercise. Nevertheless, in a challenge this important and unpredictable, it is wise to invest the energy to be prepared for any eventuality.

The remaining chapters of this section focus on specific methods of coping. After you have reviewed the material, it is recommended that you make notes that will be useful to you during a crisis in the spaces provided:

When I Encounter Cravings or High-risk Situations I Will: Here you may write messages to yourself that will remind you of your intended coping responses. Consider your full range of high risk situations and the types of coping reactions you may need. You may include one or several coping tactics here—see Coping Tactics . If you compose a formal Treatment Plan this section may contain an abbreviated version of it.

If I Lapse I Will: In this space you can describe how you will rescue victory from the jaws of defeat. This may include revisiting the Trap Detector, reviewing the appropriate sections of this course, and developing a new reminder card with the new information taken into account.

For some—especially those who are impatient, or who tend to avoid acting by becoming absorbed in excessive planning—completing the Reminder Card is sufficient documentation. However, many individuals with an excessive appetite will benefit from investing additional time and energy to develop a detailed Treatment Plan. This exercise forces you to examine the logic of your motivations and actions. Crystallizing your core motivation can help you compose commitments you will not break. The format presented here is offered to get you started; please feel free to modify it according to your preferences. Moreover, the particular example presented here is watered down to be useful to many individuals; your treatment plan can be much more vivid and idiosyncratic.

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