An Invitation. . .
. . . to choose the path of greatest advantage
rather than yield in the direction of least resistance
- George Bernard Shaw
I am a psychologist who has dedicated a long career to treating people with Mood Disorders [Anxiety, Depression, Anger] and Addictive Disorders [substance abuse including food, sex/pornography, gambling]. They are considered disorders, because they cause people to knowingly and repeatedly act counter to their own interests.
It looks different than it feels
Friends and family cannot understand why my client continues to self-sabotage, because they see the sequence of events from a distance. If they perceived the things that happen through the same lenses as my client, they would not only understand, but would probably react the same way. On the other hand, if my client perceived the things that happen through the same lenses as a dispassionate observer, there would be no self-sabotage.
The sequence of external events and internal states that make up a self-sabotaging trap has a structure that is discernable from a dispassionate, objective perspective. Clients have access to this perspective in my office, while relating the sequence of events that led to a relapse [in the case of an Addictive Disorder], or to symptoms [in the case of a Mood Disorder].
Personal, phenomenological research involves systematically accessing this dispassionate perspective to study the cause-and-effect principles that determine how you react to the things that happen. This exploration is not only interesting, but can provide the practical knowledge that enables you to follow your path of greatest advantage rather than continue to drift in the direction of least resistance.
This interactive course is about the cause-and-effect principles that govern how creatures such as you and I react to the things that happen. Its ambitious goal is to enhance the power of your will so that you are able to act in accord with your interests and principles despite local conditions that would influence you to defect.
Supplementing the text are thought experiments for your rational mind and trance formative protocols that invite you to explore and manipulate your own subjective experience.
The Power of a Will
Volition is the faculty that separates humans from more primitive creatures. The actions of animals and young children are determined by cause-and-effect principles in the same way that the principles of hydrodynamics determine the watercourse way. Your ability to understand and manipulate these cause-and-effect principles gives you the power to exercise your will.
While determinism may seem incompatible with the idea that some humans have the power to exercise their will; in fact it is understanding the cause-and-effect principles that determine how you react to the things that happen that make the exercise of will possible.
The point of exercising your will rather than yielding in the direction of least resistance is that it produces better outcomes for you. As far as we know, you get one shot at life, and it would be a shame to miss out on what you really want because you waste your time chasing the trivial payoffs of using an addictive incentive.
To follow your path of greatest advantage, you must know how you appraise the choices available to you — i.e., understand your core motivation — and develop the skills and faculties to act in accord with it, even in the face of local stressors and temptations that would motivate you to defect .
Two course objectives:
- Discover your Core Motivation. How do you appraise the choices available to you? What is your greatest desire? second greatest? etc.? A section of this course is dedicated to the personal research that will help you discover your Core Values and Hierarchy of Motives if you are not already clear about them.
- Exercise your will to act in accord with your interests and principles. Once you know what you want, the task becomes learning how to follow the path of greatest advantage. This turns out to be trickier than it sounds. Several addictive traps cause individuals such as ourselves to predictably act counter to our interests, despite our best intentions to escape them. Most of this course is designed to enhance the skills and faculties required to escape addictive traps that promote self-sabotage. You pass this course when you are able to act in accord with your interests and principles despite the pull of stressors and temptations that would motivate you to defect.
If you had no Willpower you would be bound by the laws of cause-and-effect to follow the path of least resistance. To act in accord with your interests and principles you have to resist and over-ride the pull of nearby incentives. This capability to act as intended during high-risk situations emerges gradually as you develop the procedural skills to influence experiential phenomena. On the following pages you will encounter a wide range of exercises and thought experiments that give you the opportunity to explore, play with, and learn to influence your subjective experience.
Among the intended outcomes of this course is developing your ability to influence your emotional state. My contribution is to present the information and exercises that enable you to mindfully cope with whatever crises the future has in store for you. Your part of the collaboration is far more heroic. You will have to exercise your will during the critical, high-risk moments when doing so is particularly difficult.
Having a collaborator who has accompanied many individuals through the passage you are about to undertake can be helpful in several ways — e.g., avoiding known pitfalls and iatrogenic treatment strategies. Nevertheless, the passage ahead is a difficult one, and following this course will not spare you the unavoidable sacrifices required to free yourself from the trap in which you find yourself. However, taking on a great challenge not without its own rewards. "Love your fate!" says Nietzsche. The adventure ahead is sure to be an interesting one.
As a Psychologist I have been accompanying clients through the passage that lies ahead for you. Each journey is different. The challenges waiting for you are different than everyone else's. Your solution is the one you work out; the path ahead is for your steps alone. The course contains the knowledge and tools that enable you to follow your path of greatest advantage.
To make this manual useful for a wide range of users I have included many methods and approaches to behavior change from which you may choose. The downside of offering so many options is that their descriptions can be confusing and the text descriptions can become mind numbing. To avoid getting bogged down in reading, or put to sleep by passively consuming abstract text, I encourage you to navigate through the material in ways that keep your focus on developing the practical skills you will need to manage the crises you are bound to encounter.
Your Path of Greatest Advantage Begins Now
To follow the path to change you must first begin it. Below are different starting points. Please choose the one you judge to be best matched with your needs at this time, and then exercise your will to take the first few steps. If you can get into it, this may be the right path for you.
- You can use this web site as a conventional book and proceed in a linear fashion from beginning to end. The navigational bar to the left lists the chapters in sequence down the page. Alternatively, you may step sequentially through the course by clicking the link at the bottom right of each page. If it is not urgent that you take immediate action, you can develop a good conceptual foundation for the challenges ahead by following this Default Path at the bottom of each page.
- Studying what happens to people as their addictive relationship matures offers a cheap education about the challenge facing you. The Stages of Change model will give you an overview of the stages of this passage, as well as tools to help you through each one. If you have any ambivalence about ending your relationship with the incentive, this is a good place to begin. Click here to learn about the stages of an addictive relationship, and which stage I am in.
- While each addictive trap is unique, there are some common entrapment mechanisms. To get a feel for how your trap works, complete the Trap Detector Self-Test. The trap with the highest score is likely to be most urgent. Strategies and tools to help you understand and solve the trap are provided. Take the fastest path to to action: The Trap Detector Self-Test will help you identify the most serious addictive trap you face and how to escape it.
- If negative emotional states — e.g., Depression, Anger, Anxiety — are impairing your problem-solving ability, then developing your emotion-focused coping skills may be the first priority. To develop your ability to manage your emotions so you can act mindfully during crises, work with the links in the box below:
Emotion-Focused Coping Tools
- Common Pathogenic Beliefs
- Meditative and Philosophical Methods
- Trance Formational Inductions
- Mood Disorders & Neurotic Traps
Do you have a dual diagnosis?
Addictive and Mood Disorders are highly correlated. If your puzzle involves solving a mood disorder, now is a good time to get a baseline of the severity of your symptoms by taking the self-tests below:
If you score in the moderate or severe range on either test, you probably meet the diagnostic criteria for a mood disorder that requires treatment in its own right. Failure to address the mood disorder will make the already difficult task of preventing relapse downright impossible. If you are not currently working with a clinician, please feel free to contact our office to discuss how best to cope with moderate or severe emotional states and possible underlying Mood Disorder.