Thanks to Prim for the idea for this post 🙂
Since I’ve stopped drinking I’ve been addressing many issues in CBT that have felt at times intractable as they have been my way of thinking for so long that they felt as hardwired as drinking did back in the day.
What I’ve been experiencing is systematic desensitization, a milder less traumatic version of a type of behaviour therapy called flooding.
The process of systematic desensitization occurs in three steps. The first step of systematic desensitization is the identification of an anxiety inducing stimulus hierarchy. The second step is the learning of relaxation or coping techniques. Once the individual has been taught these skills, he or she must use them in the third step to react towards and overcome situations in the established hierarchy of fears. The goal of this process is for the individual to learn how to cope with, and overcome the fear in each step of the hierarchy.
It is a form of counter conditioning, a type of Pavlovian therapy developed by South African psychiatrist, Joseph Wolpe. In the 1950s, Wolpe discovered that the cats of Wits University could overcome their fears through gradual and systematic exposure (thanks Wiki!)
So in the post I wrote about ‘the 15 minute rule‘ I talked about my almost Pavlovian drinking: certain time on the clock = wine o’clock. So Pavlov’s dogs have been treated by Wolpe’s cats! 😉
When we give up booze many of us withdraw from social situations that involve drinking as this becomes an anxiety inducing stimulus (step one above). Then we learn self-care strategies to replace the drinking with, similar to the second step described above as ‘learning of relaxation or coping techniques’. This enables us to then return to the previously anxiety inducing stimulus with the fear of the situation removed because we have completed step three and can then use these skills to react towards and overcome our fear of those scenarios.
But once we’ve conquered drinking many other scenario’s that were fear inducing present themselves and our former way of coping with them has now been resolved/removed. So then we have to apply the same processes to all the new anxiety inducing stimuli whether it’s job interviews for me or paperwork and desk sorting for Prim!
This feels like one of those really big aha moments for me in the continual journey to a life lived straight-edged. If I can remember this in times of fear and stress it should offer some respite from the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee who pipe up at these times and that I’m edging ever closer to firing from the inside of my head! 🙂
8 days to go