Is this a good idea??

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Bugs Bunny famously said, “if i dood it I get a whippin’…i dood it!”  Sometimes no matter the consequence we give into temptation and gratify our desire to say or do what brings us pleasure.  For many of us this mindset has caused great pain.  Some of us found ourselves in jail or prison.  Others have suffered divorce or damaged marriages.  Still others have found themselves broke and destitute.  This mindset has cost some their very lives.  In the end the consequences far outweigh the short term pleasure derived from our actions.  Yet, in the moment, like Bugs, we say with a smile, ““if i dood it I get a whippin’…i dood it!”

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If we hope to experience different outcomes in life we absolutely must change this way of thinking. To affect true lasting change in our lives we must be intentional about our thoughts. This is called, “Metacognition.”  Simply put we must think about what we think about.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” (Romans 12:2a).  The Bible teaches this age old truth.  If we are to affect true life change it begins with our thinking.

One tool I use in counseling is an old Rational Behavioral Training technique taught by Washtenaw County Juvenile Detention Center in Michigan.  This tool requires us to give pause before making decisions that have the potential to negatively affect our lives.  This tool asks us to consider if our thoughts or the actions we are considering stand up to a frog.  A.F.R.O.G. is an acronym.  It stands for Alive, Feelings, Reality, Others, and Goals.

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Alive

Here we ask ourselves the questions, “Do the thoughts I’m thinking about myself keep me alive? Will the things I’m considering doing affect my health in negative way, or possibly even kill me?  Does this thought or action threaten my safety in any way?” Whether we are considering giving someone a piece of our minds, doing drugs, or driving 100 mph on a motorcycle we need to ask ourselves the same question.  Is this choice I’m considering going to affect my health or safety?

Feelings

It is also important to take into account our emotions when considering our thoughts and actions. Although a thought might feel good at first, in the end it might negatively affect our emotions.  Have you ever been so angry with someone you daydreamed about how you would love to get even with them?  At first you might get pleasure in the thought of revenge.  However, as time goes on those hurts build up and you become a prisoner of your resentments.

The same can be true with our actions. What at first felt good can later have a negative effect on our emotions.  The drugs we used to feel a short term high can in the long run cause guilt and shame.  What started out as just something to do for fun can dominate and discourage us and begin to destroy our lives.

Reality

I think they are talking about me. He thinks I’m an idiot.  I’m the biggest loser in the world.  These thoughts are seldom rooted in reality.  We need to be careful how we perceive things.  If we are given to paranoia we are more prone to perceive people as being out to get us and generally negative toward us.

Another trap we can easily get caught up in is thinking the worst. Often we will consider what the worse possible outcome of a situation will be and then we focus all of our worry on that one scenario.  We can worry ourselves sick about something that may never actually occur.  It is vital when considering our thoughts and actions to ask ourselves if these thoughts and plans are rooted in the truth.

Others

How does this thought or action affect others? If what I’m about to do is going to have a negative impact on my spouse, children, other family members or friends, or if this is going to harm another individual physically or emotionally I should probably avoid it.  We are by in large a selfish culture.  We run roughshod over people without concern.  We do what we want to do to please ourselves without giving thought to those we may be hurting in the process.  Before we act we need to ask ourselves the question, “How might this action affect others?”

Goals

John was an accountant for a midsize firm in Chicago. He had his sights on going to an even bigger firm with a bigger office, and more importantly a much bigger paycheck.  John discovered a breakdown in the companies security and checks and balances system that would allow him to easily make off with a couple thousands extra dollars every month.  If John’s goal is to maintain a healthy and happy family, to get a better job, and be physically and emotionally healthy should he steel the money?

A great question to ask ourselves before we make any decision is simply, “Is this decision consistent with my goals?” By asking this one simple question many harmful comments would not be made, many letters and emails would not be sent, and many harmful self gratifying actions would not be taken.

You can help!

I’m always looking for new and different things to share with my clients. What are some tools, methods, or strategies you use to create or maintain healthy choices?  Leave your comments in the box below and thank you in advance.

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Addiction and Spirituality

 

Addiction

What leads people to addiction? I often hear this question from the family of those struggling with compulsive behaviors. From the family perspective it may be a question of who’s to blame. It may simply be an attempt to better understand the plight of a loved one. What leads to addiction is a topic of much interest to professional researchers and caregivers as well. Models of addiction have been identified in an attempt to look at addiction in a systematic way. The various models can be broken down and simplified into four main components biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual.
The first component to addiction is biological. The biological factors include personality, genetic, and other physiological elements. Much research is being done on this front to better understand addiction. Great headway has been made in the area of neurobiology with fascinating results. SPECT brain scans help us understand the effects substance abuse and addictive behaviors have on our brain. For example we have learned that behavior itself creates brain chemistry that has a neurochemical addictive effect and; the same dopamine (The brain’s natural, “feel good” chemical) release that occurs using cocaine or other drugs is released while viewing pornography with almost the same intensity.
The second component to addiction is sociological. Family life, peer pressure, and the influence of the culture are all examples of social factors in addiction. People who had a positive healthy upbringing, who have 3-5 healthy relationships, and whose culture views the addictive behavior negatively are less likely to struggle with addictions. Conversely a negative childhood can set the stage for addictive behavior in adulthood. Peer influence is a huge factor in addictive behavior, and a negative culture can be a breeding ground for addiction.
The third component to addiction is psychological. Lack of self-control, the ability to delay gratification, and emotional disorders can all lead to addictions. The need for acceptance and approval, guilt and shame, powerlessness, hopelessness, confusion, and fear can all lead to addiction.
The fourth component to addiction is spiritual. The Psalmist wrote, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well,” (Psalm 139:14 NIV). God created us not only physical, social, and emotional but also spiritual creatures. The fruit of the Spirit of God working in and through his children are first of all love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22). It is out of desperation for a sense of love, acceptance, and value many turn to addiction. Still others seek to be filled with something powerfully pleasurable (Joy). Others seek to find comfort, avoid pain, escape, worry, or feel in control (Peace) through addictions. The Bible teaches that God wants to provide His children with a supernatural love, joy, and peace that passes understanding, is guilt free, and is not destructive to our lives.
It is important to note two factors: 1. A predisposition toward addiction does not guarantee one becomes an addict. Some people who grow up in a dysfunctional family never become addicted, while others who had a healthy home environment do become addicted. 2. A predisposition toward addiction does not excuse bad behavior. If someone has all the cards stacked against him he still needs to take responsibility for his actions and find a healthier solution to life’s problems than turning to compulsive and addictive behaviors.