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The Two Sides of “Too Much”

Find the Underlying Reasons for Addictive Behavior

We’ve all met someone that does something too much—maybe they drink too much, eat too much, shop too much, work out too much or have too much sex. While the treatment for these “too much” behaviors is generally focused on the addictive nature of the substance or activity, it is rarely focused enough on the underlying reason for the behavior.

While many support programs are linked to theories of physical addiction, hypnotists are finding success by focusing on the underlying feelings that cause people to resort to the harmful substance or activity in the first place.

“While some people may find themselves genetically predisposed or physically addicted to substances or activities, most are just drinking, using, consuming or engaging to distract themselves from feelings that they don’t like,” explains Beverly Craddock, of Hawaii Hypnosis Center. “When a person feels sad or angry, and they feel like they have no way to control or overcome the feeling, they may choose to engage in something that makes them forget about the feeling for a while.”

For some “too muchers,” they have forgotten why they started distracting in the first place. The reasons for the compulsive action may have been clear many years ago but are now lost in time.

Hypnotists work on habitual behaviors by addressing underlying feelings. When a client comes to them after being diagnosed with an addiction, they work in conjunction with the client’s physician and mental health provider to address all areas of the person.

“If the subconscious feelings are left out of the equation, people often find themselves returning to the behavior and not knowing why,” adds Craddock. “Some programs try to train people to use willpower to overcome a physical addiction, but there aren’t many people who can overpower their own subconscious mind.”

People that are hurting inside sometimes don’t know they are hurting. In some cases, they have suppressed or distracted from a feeling for so long that they don’t even consciously know why they are engaging in the distracting behavior. Some people have been through organized programs only to revert to the “too much” behavior because they don’t understand the underlying emotional reasons for it. These people often feel like “failures” because of the reoccurrence. Family and friends in the support structure may also begin to distance themselves out of a feeling that future efforts will yield continued failures. And multiple failures can reinforce the mistaken idea that they aren’t personally strong enough to conquer their own issues, when in fact they just can’t get in touch with the actual cause.

A hypnotic approach to addressing “too much” behaviors is also an approach that avoids labeling the person with the behavior. Hypnotists understand that the behavior and the person are different. Just because someone engages in a “too much” behavior right now doesn’t mean he/she should be defined as an alcoholic, a drug addict, a shopaholic or a workaholic. Labels aren’t permanent if the hypnotist can help the person change his/her mind from the inside.

Other “too much” people that find success with hypnosis are those that haven’t yet hit “rock bottom” but can see it coming. They often want to work on their issues but can’t leave their job or family to enter a rehab facility. They may also be in high-profile positions or have found that therapy meetings just aren’t cutting it.

“We see many people who want help but don’t want to wait to lose their job or their family or to be diagnosed with an ‘addiction,’ says Craddock. “For whatever reason, they can’t commit to a lengthy or public program. They are looking for something that can address the underlying reason for the behavior and help them achieve the personal strength to address the rest.”

Hypnotists focus on helping clients identify their own feelings, which are most often the actual trigger for the behavior. From there, clients are able to discover whether the “too much” behavior is now manageable because the trigger is no longer there or whether they prefer to live without the distractor because they have no need for it now.

“From our perspective, drinking, eating, shopping or using aren’t the actual problem,” concludes Craddock. “The problem is when these behaviors become destructive. Telling a person they can never touch a drop of alcohol, eat a piece of pie or have a credit card again is setting them up for failure or even isolation in our social society. We look to address the reasons for the destructive behavior, and we don’t believe that the substance is always to blame.”

Randy Hampton is a writer, social scientist, hypnotist and blogger living in Honolulu.

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