Positive Compulsions: Choose what you’re Compelled About

How come some people have compulsions for positive behaviours such as regular exercise, healthy food, and fresh air, while others feel compelled to smoke, drink excessively, and spend their time in smoky casinos or in front of the telly? Why is it that for some people it would be almost impossible for them to go through a day without some form of exercise, while for others it seems almost impossible for them to even do 20 minutes of walking?

How come two people can look at a packet of cigarettes and one says, “Mmmm, I’ve got to have one”, and the other person thinks, “Yuck! Lung cancer and death!”. How come two people can look at a 10km fun run and one says to themselves, “Yeah, let’s do it!”, and the other says “It’s too hard, I couldn’t run that far”.

The reason is that both behaviours are a result of what each person has linked enjoyment and difficulty to – what has been called the pleasure / pain principle.

You only ever do anything because you associate more enjoyment and pleasure with doing it, than not doing it. You only ever avoid certain things because you associate more pain and difficulty with doing them, than not doing them.

An excellent analogy to help you understand this concept is simply that of a computer program: people have programmed themselves to associate pleasure and pain to specific things, and the differences in what they associate pleasure and pain to reflect the differences in their behaviour, personal health and fitness, and performances in their life.

Unfortunately, for many people the choice of what means pleasure and what means pain was wired into them at a young age by their parents, peers, or advertisers, and was not chosen consciously or deliberately. Some people have programs that associate exercise with hard work, or a healthy salad with pain and boredom, while chocolate and coffee is associated with pleasure and comfort! Some people even associate cigarette smoking with manliness, independence, and sex appeal – what a con that has been, yet millions have fallen for it! A classic case I worked with was a girl who had associated being sweaty with being unfeminine – programmed in by her mother at a young age – and this had prevented her from achieving the fitness and health goals she wanted! Every time she got sweaty, she felt bad, so she never really exercised properly.
What do you associate pleasure and pain to? How might you program yourself differently in order to achieve what you want – more success in your business, better relationships, or improved health and fitness? What pleasure and pain associations do you think highly successful individuals have made? How might you use this concept to assist your clients to make positive changes in their behaviours?

However, just understanding the importance of the pleasure / pain principle still doesn’t really provide us with the necessary tools to help others to stop smoking, take up regular exercise, or eat a healthy diet. The real key to helping people change unhealthy lifestyle patterns, is to understand the mental structure behind each individual’s own pain and pleasure associations.

It’s been truly said that one person’s pain is another person’s pleasure – but how can this be? What does the person do in their mind to make something pleasurable or painful?

A major reason why people don’t take action to follow a program of exercise or a healthful diet, is the way they picture and imagine those activities. Yet these same people have no problem acting on unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, over-eating chocolate or junk foods, excessive alcohol indulgence, and so on. This is so because these negative compulsions are pictured and experienced by the person very differently.

Compulsions are only compulsions because of the way you picture, hear and feel them! But what makes a compulsion, compelling? Why do some people just have to have a cigarette, or eat chocolate, or gamble their family’s savings away, or bite their fingernails, or get anxious at the sight of a spider?

We act on compulsions as a result of the structure of our subjective experience, the structure of how we think about a particular thing.

Every behaviour is a consequence of our thinking – everything we do externally must first happen internally, in our mind. If you analyse your thinking you will notice that there is only a limited amount of choice available as to how you think. Basically you’ve got five choices, as per our five senses: your thinking is made up of seeing images; hearing sounds or words; feeling feelings; and to a lesser extent, smells and tastes.

Everything we do is a result of using these five sensory thinking components – and in particular, the three primary senses of seeing, hearing, and feeling.

Every behaviour, positive or negative, productive or destructive, healthy or unhealthy first begins as a sort of mental ‘program’ in the individual’s mind before it happens. So essentially, the reason why one person sees cigarettes as attractive and another sees them as disgusting, is simply a result of engaging different mental programs. Likewise, the same is true for exercise or eating patterns – people who exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet think differently about exercise and diet, than those who don’t exercise and eat junk food.

The only way to effectively change someone’s behaviour then, is to get them to change the mental processes which support the behaviour.

The key here is that each of our primary sensory systems also includes numerous submodalities – which are finer distinctions or refinements of that sensory system. For instance, our visual sense has the submodalities of colour, size, brightness, distance, shape, and so on. Our auditory sense has the submodalities of volume, tone, tempo, distance, and so on. Our kinaesthetic sense has the submodalities of texture, temperature, pressure, movement and so on.

Submodalities are really important aspects of our thinking, because by varying the submodalities of a particular thought, even only slightly, you can totally change your response to it. For instance, if you want to be more motivated, or compelled, to achieve a particular goal or outcome, then picture, hear and feel about that outcome in the same way that you picture, hear and feel about something you’re absolutely compelled to do.

If you think of a desired goal, and ‘see’ it in full colour, big and bright, large, and up close directly in front of you; and say to yourself in a loud, confident voice “YES! I want this, now!”; and feel an excitement welling up within you, and a tingling all over your body – that’s pretty hard to resist! In contrast, if you ‘see’ a goal dim, fuzzy, and distant; say to yourself in an unsure tone of voice “I hope I get this”; and feel unsure and cool, then you’re probably not going to have much ‘go for it’!

Generally, for most people, visual submodalities of compulsion are: large size, close, colourful, 3-D, bright and moving. Auditory compelling submodalities are louder, stereo sounds or voices, close, with resonant tones. Kinaesthetic, (or feeling), submodalities of compulsion are warmer, faster movement, higher intensity and strong rhythm.

However, there can be individual differences. Do the following exercise to identify the submodalitites that are compelling for you.
EXERCISE : Submodalities of Compulsion

1. Think of something you’re really compelled to do. A favourite pastime, something you do if you get half a chance. For example it might be an activity like going to the beach, or tinkering with your motorbike, or maybe a favourite TV program you never miss. [Use a positive activity – something you enjoy doing and is not unhealthy or self destructive]

2. Now think of that activity, and as you think of it, notice the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic submodalities of your thoughts. How do you picture the activity? What and how do you talk to yourself about it? And your feelings?

3. Now think of something that you’d like to be more motivated, or compelled to do. Imagine doing it using the same visual, auditory and kinaesthetic submodalities you use for your compulsive activity.

What if you had a compulsion for positive behaviours and empowering emotional states? The difference between a champion and an average person is simply that they have chosen different things to focus on and get excited about – they have compulsions for positive behaviours like eating healthily, fitness training, and feeling good about themselves, instead of smoking, overeating, sloth and feeling lousy!

Teach your clients to make new associations to the positive behaviours you want them to follow, by having them think of exercising in a bright, close, colourful way in their mind, and re-program their negative behaviours by having them see smoking and junk food as small, dull, and uninteresting. Encourage them to speak to themselves in an upbeat, happy and resonant tone when exercising, and think about watching TV in a dull, monotone, boring manner. Have them feel vibrant feelings of energy and warmth coursing rapidly around their body when they exercise and eat healthily, and have prickly feelings of coolness and disgust for smoking and junk food.

By doing this you’re not just showing them how to exercise or lead a healthier lifestyle, you’re also showing them how to use their thinking to control their own subjective responses and behaviours – something which will have more far reaching positive consequences to their lives as a whole.

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed “Sportsmind – An Athlete’s Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training” and “Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings”; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph’s College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au



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