As a business owner and human being, I have good days and bad days. So do you. We help our clients, but do we really understand our own struggles? I posted this in my achievebalance.org blog and I modified it a bit here for practice owners. I hope you find it helpful.
Crime and Empathy
I cannot know what it is like to rob a bank. Or, maybe I can, but I haven’t yet. I do, however, know what it is like to press my right foot against the gas pedal a little harder, to consciously look away from my speedometer, to cast glances at my rear-view and side-view mirrors for police, and to mentally practice the, “My husband was supposed to get my speedometer fixed officer. It’s been off five miles per hour for months,” speech. I know what it’s like to want something so badly, even if it is just to get to Trader Joe’s before it closes or to my daughter’s volleyball practice so the coach won’t count her late, that I cheat a little. This little nugget of self-realization means while I truly don’t know the urge to rob a bank, as a human with my own law-breaking nature, I can’t look down my nose at the person who does.
Hangry and Lonely
Urge (and its cousin crave) is a funny word. In Alcoholics Anonymous and Allanon we use the acronym H.A.L.T. to describe typical urges. The acronym stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. When I work with clients I often add ‘thirst’ and ‘need to potty’ to that list. Urges are good things and key to our survival. If I am hungry, I need to eat. If I postpone eating, I won’t get less hungry as time goes by. In fact, I will grow more hungry and until I eat, I will enlist my emotions to make that happen. Unfortunately emotions are terrible behavior drivers.
For example let’s say I skip lunch and arrive home from work and see my kids’ toys in the driveway. Hungry now looks like anger and I yell at my kids about their toys. Once I eat, all is well with the world. Another example might be, what if I am a shy person and I feel lonely much of the time. I don’t recognize lonely but I do recognize the chocolate cake in my fridge. Instead of calling a friend (which is hard for me) I eat a chocolate cake. The result? I get a wonderful endorphin/serotonin hit from the cake but when I crash, I’m still lonely. I may never be brave enough to phone a friend, but I don’t have to be. I know where the cake is.
Urges and Healthy Behaviors
Emotions and urges are brothers-in-arms. They are designed to work with cognition (our thoughts) to initiate behavior that keeps us healthy. Go back to my ‘need to potty’ urge and see what I mean. You’re having a lovely conversation with the queen when your lunch begins to turn somersaults in your tummy. You know avoiding this urge is an invitation to disaster so you think of an excuse to politely exit the conversation and go take care of yourself. Rule of thumb? The longer you fight the urges, the sicker you become.
Counseling is about teaching our clients the language for urges so they can match them up with helpful thoughts and behaviors. Like a miles-long contrail in the sky indicates there is a tiny jet way up there somewhere, infidelity, restricting food, or substance abuse are signs of underlying unmet urges. Unmet urges means there’s a lot of pain in there. Where there is pain there is impulsivity, over indulgence, restricting, and even healthy-looking things like high performance discipline routines, super healthy eating (orthorexia), and over-training (follow David Goggins, author of Can’t Hurt Me if you don’t believe me). Over-ANYTHING can be a sign you have unmet urges (suffering) that you are trying to meet with behavior that completely misses the target. Welcome to humanity.
Counselors Take Your Own Advice
When you make an appointment, counselors don’t judge you because we’ve all been there. We all have urges we’ve allowed to dictate our speed, our relationships, and our health. In our work we:
- Help the hurting identify underlying emotions so they can
- Disconnect unhealthy responses to normal emotions and
- Reconnect something that IS healthy and will positively affects their job, relationships, health, and freedom.
If you are a counselor/practice owner who is struggling, you must take care of yourself. Need help? Worried about your own unhealthy behavior? Call your own counselor today.