Coping With Discomfort

Posted on June 7, 2011

An Exercise For Building Urge Busting Muscle

Discomfort is a fact of life. It is especially a fact of life when you have strong urges to engage in addictive behavior and you resist them. Part of the SMART program includes tools to cope with urges – below we’ve included an exercise that may help you cope with the discomfort of urges.

  1. Let yourself feel the full experience of discomfort – no avoiding!
  2. Once you’ve felt it, do a gut check – get an overall estimate of the discomfort level. Let’s say on a 100-point scale, you’re feeling discomfort at a 75.
  3. After you have identified your “discomfort level” divide the discomfort into two pieces:
    • The literal, actual sensations you feel and
    • The “I don’t want these sensations!” reaction that you have toward the literal, actual sensations.
  4. Once you’ve made the “cut,” see which piece is bigger. Most folks report it is the “I don’t want these sensations!” part, not the literal, actual sensations part.
  5. Now you make a second cut. This time cut the “I don’t want these sensations” piece into
    • I just don’t want these sensations” and
    • I MUST NOT have these sensations.”

Which of these two pieces carries more discomfort? Most people say it’s the “I MUST NOT have these sensations” piece. You can work to minimize the discomfort by the “I MUST NOTs” by reducing how much you actually believe them – specifically, try disputing them:

    When did I start running the universe? Since when did all sensations have to check with me first before showing up inside my body?”

When you dispute, does the total amount of discomfort go down? It often does for many people.

Some people report they have trouble finding the “I MUST NOT have these sensations” piece and only have the “I just don’t want these sensations” piece. Whether you find the “MUSTS” or not, you can often lower the discomfort associated with either piece with other disputations like these:

    I may not like these sensations, but they are far from AWFUL when I compare them to the possibility of what I might do if I use again – like getting into a car accident and hurting myself or someone else”

    I may not like these sensations but I am able to stand them. Especially since I know that in a few minutes they will likely be gone.”

    It doesn’t make me a crumb, a worm, or a louse because these sensations are part of my addictive behavior history. Maybe I wouldn’t have them now if I had acted differently in the past, but lousy past behavior doesn’t make me a louse. Besides, by continuing to resist now, I will likely have fewer of these urges in the future.”

Try this exercise and share your thoughts on how it worked for you – either in the comments, on the SMART message boards or in the next SMART meeting you attend.

Article by Hank Robb, Ph.D.

2 thoughts on “Coping With Discomfort

  1. Hank Robb

    Hello Robert,

    I wanted to take time to respond to your post about my article. However, I’m not exactly sure which “concept” you are disagreeing with. If you consider the A-B-C analysis of REBT, the actual sensations would be the “A,” Activating Event, and “B’s,” Beliefs about A, would be “I don’t like these sensations” and “I MUST not have them.” Disputing “B’s” to get different “C’s,” emotional and/or behavioral Consequences in the presence of A, is a quite standard Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy move. Since Albert Ellis started “Rational Therapy” in the mid-1950’s, moved on to a new name, “Rational-Emotive Therapy” in the early 1960’s and finally on to “Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy” in the early 1990’s, I would guess this move has been used literally millions of times by literally tens of thousands of therapists around the planet. Many studies have found that looking for “beliefs that don’t work” and working hard to give them up, including using alternative beliefs a person might adopt instead, has been effective in changing the ways people both feel and act. Since sex addicts, rapists, and pedophiles, like all the rest of us, face strong urges that would be better not acted on, they too, could use this approach and many have been taught to do so and put those teachings to use in changing the way they handle their strong urges and to stop harming others or themselves.

    I hope this helps answer the questions.


    Hank Robb

  2. Robert Shields

    I don’t agree with this concept.
    How long has this concept been used?,
    How many people have used it successfully.
    Has this concept been tested in the field.
    How many other professionals are using this.

    Sex addicts, rapists, pedophiles?


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