I recently read an article by life coach, Devlyn Steele, about how most self-help books are either misleading or incomplete in their advice. Specifically speaking of addictions he said there is a big point being missed in these books and that is in order to stop bad habits or addictions we must treat the cause and not the symptom. This also applies to porn addiction . The following is a quote from his website:
“There comes a time when we simply don’t feel as if we have options. We feel that we don’t have control. We overeat, drink too much, do drugs, watch television, oversleep, don’t go to work, don’t return calls, avoid people we know and fall into the void, a place in which we feel no control and feel that we can’t change our behavior no matter how much we want to. Why does this happen, and what can we do?One of two things are happening:
1) we can’t deal with the void we feel in our souls, so we go into non-action and avoidance behavior, or
2) we try to fill the void and then we go into consumption behavior, for example, sex, food, drugs, overeating or overspending.
It all comes down to the void. This is the difference between symptoms and causes. The symptom is the overeating or alcohol or whatever your drug of choice may be, which can be television, spending or anything. It’s all the same. Whatever we’re doing that’s destructive is the symptom. The cause is always a void in ourselves that we are trying to fill. Unfortunately, the behavior never fills it. In fact, any temporary relief we experience is only met by further regret.”
So, according to Devlyn, we will not overcome the real problem by just stopping the obvious symptoms. We may success for a short while but will eventually return to our vice since we have not been healed of the cause. The cause could be a number of things to include, loneliness, guilt, shame, abuse, low self esteem, and many more.I can certainly look back on my own life and see the obvious errors in my thinking. I’ve read so many self help books I started to feel like a doctor. However, every book left me feeling like I didn’t have a complete picture. Though every book got me excited and motivated, my success was limited. These books did give me valuable information but most of the time lacked the practical advice I was looking for. Most of the time I became frustrated because I felt like these books only described why I was addicted or had a certain bad habit, but never told me how to get out. When I did get advice it was simply treating the symptom and not the cause and I would eventually return to my vice.
The self-help industry is a multi million dollar business. There is never a shortage of people willing to buy into these books and programs. On one hand this is good as it shows people want to change and want to know how. That’s great! On the other hand, authors are profiting from giving incomplete or misleading advice. I’m not saying that they purposely do this but some may. Once you’re healed you’re lost as a customer. It seems to me that if a self help book was a New York Times Best Seller selling millions of copies then a significant number of those people should be healed and moving on with their lives. The truth is those people end up being repeat customers for the next great book.
So, getting back to the point of this post, which is to cut through confusion and simplify at least part of the addiction recovery process. I’ve done this for myself and it’s quite refreshing. Whenever you are tempted to do something you know you should, stop for a moment and ask yourself what is the real reason you are doing it. Are you bored, lonely, sad, mad, what are your thoughts and emotions. I’m not saying this is going to fix everything but it is certainly a step in the right direction, something most self help books are lacking.Let’s start concentrating on the real cause and not just the symptoms!
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is it is person and problem specific. I can give examples but without sitting you down as a therapist I cannot know for sure. In fact some people need therapy because things are so distorted that it would be very difficult for them to see the difference between the cause and the symptoms on their own. This self help advice works better for those who are not caught up in this confusion.So on with the example. I used to drink alcohol. Alcohol was a symptom of something deeper. Loneliness and boredom, and perhaps pain from past relationships and mistakes as well were the cause of my problem. If I look back I can see that when I would get off work I would think about going home to a empty house, sitting there thinking about the past, and nothing to do. This was more than enough for me to look for an escape from my emotions. So I turned to alcohol.
The practice of differentiating between symptoms and the cause starts with having the truth. The truth is your actions, though they may deepen the problem, are not the cause. Then it takes a conscious effort to pause for a moment of thought when tempted and ask yourself, “What is the real reason I’m doing this?” or “What am I feeling in my heart or thinking in my mind right now that is leading me to give into temptation?” or “What am I trying to escape right now?” So part of the process is arming yourself with a set of questions ready to go when temptation comes. This by no means is a comprehensive plan to overcome weaknesses. However, this will lead to more self awareness, less mechanical almost robotic acting out, and more personal power.
I hope that answers your question. Feel free to ask more if you need to.
Jul 26, 4:23 PM
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