Key Strategies to Overcoming “Addiction” - based on work by Dr. Marc Lewis and from Paula DeSanto
Basic Understanding of brain anatomy and neurological “learning”:
- Role of Dorsolateral PFC (top down processing – insightful/big picture) functioning
- Role of Striatum (motivation center where desire is ignited – part that “burns hot”)
- Addiction results in dampening of connection between these 2 parts (like kindling that is no longer quick to light)
- Brains develop and function based on the environments they develop and function in.
- Where we focus our attention defines us neurologically. (The power of repetition)
- Our brains have incredible plasticity and can be re-wired throughout our lifetime, but this requires focused effort, intention, and repetition.
- Mindfulness has been shown to quiet the reward/desire centers and engage PFC.
Concept of ego fatigue:
- Frequent suppression of desire results in cognitive “wearing out” and makes it more difficult to engage machinery of self-control.
- Resisting the urges often becomes a growing source of anxiety.
- Re-interpreting or reframing (vs. suppression) does not cause the same fatigue.
Need to create new neuropathways by igniting other forms of desire (top down processing):
- Reflect on our past and connect the past to our current conundrum.
- Imagine a future very different from our present – our addiction is no longer tolerable.
- We must see our lives progressing toward a viable future – we must believe we are going somewhere.
- Switch from a goal of immediate need to a goal of long-term fulfillment.
- “Attitude adjustment” – Choose to be hopeful and practice gratitude.
- Practice basic self-care – Keep the primal brain centers “cool,” so there are fewer fires to put out.
- Understand attached detachment – All we can do is “our best” – then we need to let go.
- Practice mindfulness – Learn to watch our thoughts, choose our responses, and understand we get to decide what meaning we choose to attach to circumstances.
- Develop at least one meaningful connection with a peer – We are group primates that cannot thrive in isolation.