We generally think that urges indicate weakness.
Mine is Luna and Larry's Chocolate Walnut Brownie Coconut Bliss.
And making smart alecky comments when I'm annoyed.
And having the last word.
Standard habit-breaking protocol dictates that we use extreme amounts of self-discipline, hide anything that may bring us near temptation, and spend the rest of our lives resisting....until we give in and decide that it was a dumb goal anyway.
Am I right??!!
Standard protocol is not always best.
There is another way that does not include white knuckles and having our kids hide their candy (which I always took as a personal challenge anyway which creates the OPPOSITE affect since now I actively seek the hidden candy just to see how quickly I can find it).
It involves ALLOWING an urge to be there without responding.
Brooke Castillo (She is amazing) did a podcast about her "urge jar". This is a little empty jar that you fill with pebbles every time you feel an urge and allow it without responding to it.
It is based on the premise that resisting, reacting, or distracting from an urge does not address the actual issue.
The actual issue is that we are giving something with no authority full and complete right to govern how we think, act, and feel without even realizing it. It's like some kind of underground takeover that we don't even question.
I'll share some of my personal experiences in my upcoming video, but trust me...it's sneaky!
I'll share a hypothetical situation to describe the process of giving authority to something that does not deserve it.
If the next door neighbor's visiting mother-in-law's Uber driver came over while you were in the middle of hosting a party to tell you that you needed to weed your flower bed immediately would you really put on your gardening gloves and get to weeding?
We'd think she was cray and do no such thing.
But somehow the sneaky little urge to break into the Luna and Larry's in the freezer comes in, demands some action, and I disregard my aspirations of chiseled abs, steady blood sugar, and decreased inflammation and respond with, "Yes, Master".
I just gave the urge with no authority complete reign and was left with an empty container of ice cream and regret fumbling for excuses and thoughts of how I can hide ice cream from myself.
The way we handle an urge is the same way we handled our two-year-old kids in the grocery store.
When they want a candy bar and we tell them another time they may begin to demand.
And when we don't give in they up the ante.
We may have a full-blown, monumental tantrum on our hands.
At this point we can choose to engage and shout "I SAID NO!". We can tantrum too. We'll show them who's tougher, louder, stronger, right? This is resistance.
Or we can react and give them the candy bar saying it just isn't worth the fight. This is reacting.
Or we can pretend like we don't hear them. Distract from it. Put in the ear buds and listen to 80's rock acting as if our mini-me isn't drawing the eyes and judgement of all kinds of people we will certainly run into later.
If we give in at any point here we have effectively taught our growing young that in order to get what you want it is effective to throw a monumental fit.
In psychology it is called reinforcement.
We just reinforced the behavior of throwing a fit.
When an urge throws a fit, it can feel just as miserable as being in a grocery store with a screaming toddler.
It may begin as a small desire to just go look in the freezer.
Then the mouth may begin watering, just imagining one spoonful.
Our thoughts become obsessed with it and we literally have, if we pay attention, very uncomfortable sensations in the body.
If we give in now, we reinforced this "urge tantrum" and it will surely resort to this uncomfortable sensation next time since it worked so well.
It also got a little dopamine hit. This is the "seek and achieve" hormone/neurotransmitter that gives us just a little something-something as a reward for gaining something that is desired.
How can we hack this system?
An urge jar.
Sometimes when my little vandal of a child threw some of his whoppers I would sit and wait. Sometimes I would do other things while he worked it out and come back and check. If he screamed I would talk back quietly and calmly, trying to answer his questions that actually sounded pretty legit oftentimes if you were a child being denied something that seemed like it should be yours.
I was fine.
Nothing had gone wrong. This was how he was learning.
Does that mean I gave him what he was screaming for.
But by allowing a tantrum without rewarding I was able to function out of love.
I was able to take care of myself and not take on some of the accusations that would fly out of that kid's way-too-young-to-talk mouth.
Eventually he knew that he wasn't going to get it.
It just wasn't worth it.
Why does the urge jar work?
It hacks the system that is already in place.
1. Every time we allow an urge to be there without resisting, without reacting, and without distracting we are re-establishing the order of things.
The pre-frontal cortex, whose job it is to manage impulses, gets put back into authority. It actually makes pretty good decisions when it has all of the information and kicks its laissez faire ways. It may be a little rusty. It may go back and forth between helicopter parent and lackadaisical as it gets its feet underneath but with practice settles as a pretty good authority.
2. Placing a pebble in the jar when you allow an urge without responding gives you a dopamine hit.
We love our dopamine. If you get really, really aware you can feel it all during the day.
When you get that last word in.
When you win an argument.
When you hear a bit of gossip.
It's a process already in place.
Is it being used to help you become the person you want to be or is it being used to reinforce thoughts, actions, and feelings that do not serve you?
If dopamine is what works we can use it to reinforce a new behavior, thought, feeling.
3. We get to know our reasons.
If what we are seeking is authority over our thoughts, feelings, and actions...here is where it becomes obvious what our go-to excuses are.
If we are not doing something that we say we want to do:
sneaking chips after 10
skipping the workout
entertaining unwholesome or unhelpful thoughts
We are finally able to hear what reasons we use to justify our "slips"
GUARANTEED when you find one for one area, like why you're eating ice cream when you said you wouldn't, YOU WILL FIND YOUR REASON for several things.
It's the same program.
For instance, I decided that I would choose a day of the week to eat one portion of ice cream at a time. I was doing totally fine until I got sick.
After a day of that I heard myself say, "I need calories any way I can get them. Let's eat ice cream all day".
My pre-frontal cortex said, "Okay!"
No questions asked.
It fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
It took me a full day until I passed my urge jar that I even questioned that plan.
The program at work here was that there are conditions that supersede my long-term aim.
The most important question I can ask at this point is, "Where else does this show up?"
Because it will.
I found it everywhere.
I have special conditions to lash out when I am particularly tired.
I have special conditions to say smart alecky things when I am annoyed.
I have special conditions to have the last word when I am convinced that I am right.
Until I see those conditions that I have put on situations, it feels like I don't have any choice but to react. I am not yet aware.
4. When you become practiced at noticing urges, noticing your special conditions for exceptions, deciding what dopamine gets to reward, and then allow about 100 urges, you get reinstated as boss.
The urges lessen.
The tantrum subsides.
It isn't so much work to be around the ice cream or the candy or the person who is obviously and annoyingly mistaken.
That agitated, uneasy feeling that is prompting us to DO SOMETHING turns into a calmer, stiller feeling.
The urgency is gone.
And you have a much better behaved mind.
Does any of this sound like it would be helpful to you?
You can reach out and get some feedback in the area you think may be being overrun by purple minions in the mind: those little urges that keep us from actively choosing what stays and what goes. I've done it and I promise it is worth the work for the freedom that comes.
Just click the contact a coach button HERE