In my search to seek out alternative therapies for healing I ran across a program called Access Consciousness. I would put it in the category of New Age, and I am fine with that, I like New Age stuff. To me the concepts from Access are really all about letting go of all the baggage we carry around and becoming one’s true self. It does this through a series of different processes or tools, some of which include asking yourself a lot of questions.
I have only dipped a toe in the water when it comes to Access Consciousness. I have read several books written by students of Access Consciousness, but have never attended any of the live programs. I am by no means an expert on this program, it seems to be complex and there are a lot of different concepts. I liked much of what I have read though and wanted to share the program with you to possibly check out on your own.
In my exploration of the program I did become a practitioner of Bars. A body process that releases built up stress in your body and mind. It is supposed to increase mental clarity and promote better sleep. I found it to be so relaxing and uplifting that I took the classes to become a practitioner.
Access And Recovery
One of the students of Access, Marilyn M. Bradford, has written a book – Right Recovery For You. Here is a quote from the book “The greatest gift that you can give yourself and the world is to show up as who you really are, with all the parts and pieces you have deemed unacceptable back in place. When you do this, addiction cannot exist.” This really resonated with me. I believe that when there is self-love and self acceptance it’s easier to say no to self-sabotage and self-destructive behaviors. I’m not sure that Access is the way to get to self acceptance for everyone, but it is interesting and there is a lot of information online to explore. The programs however are a bit pricey.
I wanted to focus here on an idea from the book about using self investigation when urges to engage in addictive behaviors come up. If we can pause and stop to reflect before we just go from thought to action we have a chance of getting more in touch with our triggers, finding better ways to self soothe, and ideally breaking the hold of the addictive behavior. When an impulse or thought comes up to engage in a behavior or to indulge in a substance a normal person will check in and determine whether or not it is a good idea. An addict however will go from thought to action without really taking time to look at the consequences of the behavior, or question whether or not it is the best course of action.
So taking the idea from the book about investigating, I’ve borrowed some of Marilyn’s ideas and created a set of questions similar to the ones in her book. If you feel like you have tried everything to quit your compulsive behavior or substance, I encourage you to give this option a try. The more you find you can delay the urge and investigate what is really going on you gain some of your power back. You diminish the control the addiction has on you.
- On a scale from 1 to 10 how strong is the urge to give into this behavior?
- What do I think will happen if I don’t give into this behavior?
- Are the consequences of not giving into this urge more important than the consequences of giving into it? In other words if I engage in the behavior will the consequences be better or worse than if I do engage in the behavior?
- Would it be possible for me to tolerate not giving into this urge?
- What is it that I am trying to avoid by giving into the behavior?
- Would I be willing to just be with whatever is here right now, at least for a while?
- Would it help if I took some time to breathe and get grounded in my body and let these thoughts go for the time being?
- What would be a better way to allow what is and take care of myself instead of run from it?
- What would it be like if I chose me instead of my addiction this time?
If you stop and take the time to ask these questions it is likely you will gain some insight into why the urge is so strong and why the need to give into it feels so important. It will also help you to see that although it may be uncomfortable to not engage in the behavior it is possible.
This form of self investigation incorporates the idea of mindfulness and cognitive therapy. Really taking time to consider the questions and answer them honestly will bring you into the present moment. That is what mindfulness is, present moment awareness, in this case awareness of thoughts and feelings. Paying attention to your answers can also give you a clue about how rational the self talk is. For example, “I’m short on money, if I gamble I could win and have enough to pay these bills.” Hopefully you can see how irrational that is, the likelihood of a win to pay the bills for someone addicted to gambling is low. With practice checking in, even a compulsive gambler will be able to see that they lose more than they win and that is not a rational thought.
It would be helpful to write these questions down and carry them with you so that when the urge comes up you are prepared to sit with the questions. It would also be great to have some alternative actions to lower your stress level, self soothe, nurture yourself, or even something fun or playful to reward yourself for choosing you instead of giving your power to your addiction.
Alternate behaviors could be as simple as taking time to deep breathe and relax your body for 5 to 10 minutes, taking a walk in nature, calling a friend, getting a coffee, going for a run, watching a favorite movie, or taking a bubble bath. The healthy options are endless.
In the moments before you make a decision to give in to an urge is where you have the power, once you let the chatter in your mid-brain takes over and remembers the positives of engaging in the behavior. Now you are on a slippery slope unless you get the rational brain back on board, that is what the questions can help you do. Make a commitment to yourself to investigate what is really going on before giving yourself over to the impulse or urge.