Overcoming cravings is a key component – if not the key – to overcoming harmful habits and addiction. And there are as many theories about the cause of cravings as there are cravings themselves. No one knows the cause of addiction. No theory of addiction is proven.
So what if we just focused on seeing cravings in a way that helped us resist and overcome? It’s not easy, but it might be simpler than we imagine.
Here’s how we might define cravings for practical purposes.
Addictive cravings come from the old brain, which is primarily concerned with immediate gratification and eliminating discomfort, without a long-term view. The primitive brain is not the one you use to plan your future. It’s all about immediacy.
The new brain is the mechanism for long-term planning, anticipating consequences and reflecting upon your life. This is the part of you that can shut down impulses for immediate gratification and resist cravings.
Cravings are conditioned habits wired into the brain through neuroplasticity. They’re compelling and difficult to resist, but they can be successfully shut down; otherwise, no one would ever overcome a bad habit or recover from addictive behavior.
It’s possible to be swept away by cravings; they can take over your mind and body. At that point, the only relief is to give in. This comes from a lack of psychological separation from the craving. It could also be seen as the classic “hijack” perpetrated by the primitive brain.
Relabeling a craving may help you keep your psychological distance from the craving and not be swept away by it. Merely calling it a craving could help. This is a craving. Taking it a step further and identifying the source of the craving may be even more constructive. This is a craving that comes from my primitive brain, which has been conditioned to crave this. I am not my primitive brain; it’s just a part of me that wants immediate gratification in this way.
I am not my craving. I am separate from my craving. Craving comes from my primitive brain, which is not the whole of me. And so forth.
Other labels for cravings and impulses:
• My addicted part
• My craver part
• My obsessive part
• My _________ part.
The point is to create a psychological separation between you and this aspect of yourself? Does this aspect of you represent all of who you are? No. Therefore, it’s just a part of you and not the whole. When this part takes over, it probably feels like all of you, however. Thus the need for psychological separation. With such separation, you are more likely to feel you can choose to obey this impulse or not.
Additional thoughts about overcoming cravings and the object of addictive urges:
• Are not related to self-esteem.
• Aren’t a desire to cope or a crutch.
• Do not fill a psychological need.
When you begin to see cravings and addictive urges differently than conventional wisdom suggests, it becomes easier to resist them.
For a free, printable worksheet that guides you through the process of relabeling and separating yourself from addictive urges, click here.