In Stopping Addictions pt 1, we looked at addictions research which demonstrated that the brain’s capability to learn is based upon what we “feed” it. This is true for porn addictions as much as sexting or other compulsions. Through feeding it our addictions this leads our brain to learn powerful but unhelpful neural connections. This then leaves you with wiring “faults” and a “Brian” instead of a brain. These neural connections create links between your feelings, thinking and behaviour and it is these patterns that we call addiction and why it is difficult to stop.
Quite simply, to get new habits you need new connections.
Addiction and Relaxation
This brings us to some techniques which you can use to help you to “rewire”. We looked at 3 techniques in part 2 Stopping Addictions pt 2, of this series. The next technique is a combination technique. Firstly, Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR) is great to use as, not only does it provide you with a distraction technique in itself but it feels great to do and gives you health benefits. PMR is one of the easiest ways to relax and it’s really pretty quick to learn. Even better, when combined with a simple breathing technique and visualisation you get something really very powerful at your service.
These relaxation exercises have been very widely used and whilst they might indicate a tight muscle they should not cause you any pain to undertake. If you feel in any pain simply stop. Equally, if you have any concerns about your health see your GP.
It is easiest to start from your feet and work up to your head. Hold each stretch moderately hard for about 13 seconds and then relax, feeling the difference between your state of tension and relaxation. At you feel the relaxation tell yourself in your mind that you are warm and relaxed.
- Curl your toes down hold (for 13 secs.) Feel the tension. Keep holding, then relax.
- Curl your toes up and hold for 13s. Feel the tension in your shin. Keep holding, then relax.
- Tell yourself in your mind that you are warm and relaxed
- Tense your thighs and hold; keep holding, then relax.
- Tense your tummy muscle (abdominals/six pack), hold, keep holding for 13s and then relax.
- Tell yourself that you are warm and relaxed.
- Make a fist with both hands and feel the tension in your forearms. Hold for 13 and then relax. Feel the relaxation.
- Push your shoulders up to your ears and hold for 13, then relax
- Tell yourself that you are warm and relaxed.
- Push your eyebrows up to the ceiling. Hold and then relax.
- Bring your eyebrows together as though you are scowling. Hold and then relax.
- Inside your mouth, push your tongue up behind your top set of teeth, hold and then relax. Repeat with front bottom set of teeth.
- Clamp your jaw shut and hold and then relax.
- Move on to breathing and visualisation.
Visualisation is very powerful – most of the connections you make in your head are the same as if you were doing the actual activity itself. As part of your distraction techniques to combat addictive behaviour it is important to choose an enjoyable activity to visualise as the visualisation will reinforce that activity almost as much as doing it. For most people visualisation works better if you are relaxed first. This simple breathing exercise helps many people to get “see” their image more clearly by feeling more relaxed. PMR plus breathing is ideal but you may need simply do this breathing technique as it often does the trick.
Relaxation: Breathing Technique 1
- Sit comfortably, “grounded”, both feet on the floor.
- Place one hand on your belly/tummy and one on your chest.
- Now focus on your breathing, breathing just from your belly. If you are doing this well, your hand on your belly will move in and out, whilst the one on your chest will not move.
- Concentrate on your breathing, thinking about each breath and feeling your tummy moving in and out.
- Then, when you feel more relaxed, visualise/see yourself doing your chosen distraction activity. Make the pictures you see very bright and colourful. If you can, imagine the feeling and sounds of the activity.
Remember, as you practice, your automatic (addictive) patterns of behaviour are weakened and you start to develop positive associations. This takes time and you will sill have addictive cravings/ images or other things for a long time.
Ken McLeish is Principal Therapist at Reflexions Counselling and Therapy in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Reflexions provides counselling and therapy for a range of issues including addictions. He can be contacted through the website: https://counselling-newcastle.co.uk .
Information contained in this blog is not a substitute for face-to-face therapy. It can only every be one view of a situation and may not be applicable to your situation. You are advised to seek specialist support for treatment for addictions. The work here is a personal view which may change over time and should not be taken as representative of Reflexions Counselling and Psychotherapy.