Crowd out, don’t cut out.
This is a core strategy of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). It’s a way of facilitating positive change in your life, especially when it comes to letting go of unwanted habits.
Suppose I say to you,
“Do whatever you’d like, just don’t think about a red-eyed polar bear.”
Now all you’re doing is thinking about a red-eyed polar bear, right? The same idea often applies when you’re trying to change deeply ingrained behavioral patterns.
Maybe you want to drink less alcohol. Well, you can spend all your time NOT DRINKING ALCOHOL. This becomes a full-time job, and even when you’re not drinking, alcohol is on your mind. You’re trying to get rid of this behavior by sheer force of will. This strategy works for some people, but tends to backfire for many others. In DBT terms, this is the strategy of “cutting out.”
The strategy of “crowding out” works differently. Here, you focus on things you’d like to be doing with your time – time that’s otherwise occupied by drinking. You decide to take a salsa class. You decide to adopt a puppy. You decide to learn French, volunteer at a soup kitchen, run a marathon, whatever. Your focus is on doing rather than NOT doing. The idea is you’ll eventually be so busy living your life in an intentional, growth-oriented way that you simply don’t have the time or energy to devote to heavy drinking.
Make a list of things you’d like to do more of.
Next time you’re tempted to drink, redirect yourself to this list. Negotiate a deal with yourself, if needed. Maybe decide to allow yourself a drink — but only after you’ve gone to your salsa class, practiced your French and played with your new puppy. By the time you’re done with all that, maybe you still want that drink, and maybe you don’t. Either way, you’ve already brought more fresh energy into your life. You’re trying something new. You’re exploring the healthy edges of your life rather than just cutting a deeper groove into well-worn pathways.
Special Note: If you are concerned about yourself and your use of alcohol or another unwanted habit, please call our Dallas office at (972)755-0996 to discuss how our team of licensed professionals can help. We welcome your call with no judgement.