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looking for a suitable image for my posts often helps me write the post itself. I chose this image because the kind of fear I’m talking about isn’t the sort that protects you when you cross the road, or the kind of fear connected with circumstances and events that we cannot control, such as the recent tragic terrorist attack in Manchester, which has saddened and distressed all those who hear of it.

the type of fear I’m talking about is the kind of fear about a specific circumstance that keeps us small, and trapped, and feeling as if there is no way to take the lid off the jar because we can’t get at it, because we are inside the damn jar.

if you are reading this then it is a fair bet that you are either not drinking any more, or that you are trying not to drink any more, or that you are thinking about it. so this post applies certainly to stopping drinking, but also perhaps to any other change or circumstance within your control, or where at the very least your response to that circumstance is within your control.

I’m listening to a lot of podcasts at the moment and I heard one recently that has been reverberating in my brain ever since. it was from Brendon Burchard, whom I listen to when I need a burst of energy and positivity although it has to be said he is definitely on the Gorgonzola end of the podcast spectrum and so may not be your cup of tea 😉

you can see an 11 minute video or read a transcript of the podcast here.

Brendon’s premise is that we are afraid of three types of pain:

  • loss pain
  • process pain
  • outcome pain

one thing I have found very helpful is the realisation that every behaviour has a purpose. so if I am behaving in a certain way, which I cannot understand or explain, then there is a behavioural payoff for that behaviour,  and if I can identify that behavioural payoff it will help me untangle and unpick my own motivation so as to re-orient the behaviour in the direction that I truly desire.

if you are trying and struggling to change a behaviour, would it be helpful for you to try and identify what pain you are trying to avoid?

are you trying to avoid the pain of loss? are you worried, for example, about losing the connection to others that you think can only be found when alcohol is in your glasses (not true, obvs)? Brendon suggests that instead of focusing on the loss that we focus on what we gain in making a change. I would also suggest that we seek other ways of obtaining what we are worried about losing – for example by forming new connections with others in a sober community.

are we trying to avoid the pain of the process? bearing in mind that anticipatory anxiety often means that the anticipation of the process is nearly always worse than the process itself….

here Brendon recommends that we reframe challenge as a good thing as it is how we achieve growth, variety and spice in our lives. this is difficult to do when we are feeling weak, scared and vulnerable. I would suggest that we need to orchestrate a series of small wins, minute by minute, day by day, and linking rewards to the new behaviour until we can feel stronger and empowered by our progress itself.

lastly, am I trying to avoid outcome pain? suppose we try and we struggle and it isn’t worth all the effort? or what if the outcome is something that now feels unbearable? that our marriage doesn’t survive a one-sided sobriety, or that your job isn’t enough once we are sober? here I would suggest that reading others’ experiences can reassure us that it is worth it, that when we are sober then we can handle whatever life throws at us. from my own perspective at over three and a half years sober, there is no outcome of sobriety that does not hugely outweigh any minor losses, inconveniences, or trivial social discomforts.

I’ve been finding it hugely helpful to identify what pain I am anticipating in this way. perhaps you might, too?

if you have been experiencing a particular pain in reference to getting sober, how has that come out for you – as loss pain, process pain, or outcome pain? what have you found helpful in overcoming it? I’d love to hear your experience.

here’s the last couple of paragraphs of the talk:

‘When you’re obsessing about loss pain, process pain and outcome pain, the more you focus on those the more you obsess about those types of pain and your brain and body go no, don’t do that, I don’t want to experience that. We’ve been gifted with this incredible contraption that is unbelievably driven to avoid pain and when we realize that then we have to stop suffering in our minds and stewing in our minds about the pain we might experience if we do the very things that would improve our lives.

You and I both know what would improve our lives, why aren’t we doing it? Because somewhere there we’ve probably associated a lot of loss, process or outcome pain to it. So today might be a great day to sit down and say, what do I really want in my life? Why have I not been progressing faster? When you explore that question you might discover loss, process and outcome pain at work. You can flip it and focus on the gains, the joys and the positive outcomes. When you start doing that you’ll find yourself being that joyous master, getting further ahead in life and you might just find that life can feel fully charged once again.’

Have a great weekend, sober friends. Prim xx

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