When your trying to make a positive change in your life it likely involves getting rid of long-lived bad habits. Things like shoveling cake into your mouth after a stressful day, or guzzling a bottle of wine, or soothing your boredom by spending money you don’t have…or just about a thousand other things that make you wake up in the morning and chastise yourself for doing it – AGAIN. Week after week, year after year.
So, we try and change! We look at ourselves in the mirror and come to terms with ourselves and our habits. I’m fed up, sick and tired of being sick and tired, sick of this pile of debt that creeps into my thoughts as I lay awake at night. I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE.
And then we try. We try really really hard to change.
And some of us succeed. So what is the secret?
This is what I think: Deprivation SUCKS but Sacrifice RULES.
The definition of deprivation is the lack or denial of something considered to be a necessity. In Somatic Experiencing terms, you are all the sudden taking away something that your body has considered essential and comforting for a very long time, even if it’s unhealthy or dangerous.
So if you are Tarzan, you are swinging from vine to vine and all of the sudden you’ve cut some of the vines out of your life and you have nothing left to hang on to. You are stuck! That is deprivation. You have denied yourself the lifeline that has kept you afloat for so long. Sure it may be unhealthy and even damaging. But you have nothing new to replace it with.
The definition of sacrifice, on the other hand, is an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. So here the focus is on the future, on something greater to come. The act of sacrifice is powerful when you know exactly were you want to go and you can visualize it. Your body fills up with purpose and pays much less attention to the ache of what is missing.
The way we chose to change has a big impact on whether we succeed. If we focus on what we have lost, we feel deprived and unhappy. But if we focus on our goal, we feel fulfilled, even as we sacrifice. The feeling of fullness, after all, is what we seek. So by focusing on what makes your sacrifice worthy, and really filling up BEFORE we actually get rid of our bad habit, we have envisioned a vine that we can grab.
I’ll plan to write additional articles of preparing for and undergoing big change. For now, I just encourage you to reflect on what kind of felt experience you have as you imagine letting go of your “bad” habit. Do you feel deprived (sinking or bracing feeling)? Or do you feel full (satisified, excited, empowered) with the vision of what you are working to achieve? Or is it hard to sense the difference?
Here’s an exercise:
Start by wondering where you would like to see yourself a month or a year from now. Visualize that person as they look at a positive bank balance for the first time. Really feel the excitement of that future moment. Stamp the feeling on your forehead or post the image on your mirror or write it down or tell your spouse. REALLY FEEL IT. IF YOU DON’T FEEL THE BURN, stop and take a break. You aren’t excited yet. Poke around for some ways to get pumped about your new project. WHEN YOU FINALLY GET EXCITED ABOUT YOUR GOAL, AND ONLY THEN, START TO WORK BACKWARDS. What do I need to sacrifice to get there. What are the ten steps you need to achieve to get there? Is the finish-line visible and achievable in a reasonable amount of time – a few months, three years? How will you celebrate mini-successes? Who will cheer you on? When will you know you are successful? Etc, etc. The key is finding your excitement FIRST. Then you can sacrifice and let go of your old vine.
My individual and couples practice is part-time in Oak Park, IL. I don’t write often but am thinking about doing it more as I continue to develop my skills in trauma healing Somatic Experiencing (SE) and Emotionally Focused therapy for Couples (EFT). I can be reached at 872-225-2150 or at my website www.madiganoakparkcounseling.com