When you can’t control when you start or when you stop a behavior or substance you are suffering from a compulsion. We are all familiar with compulsive eating, drinking, and spending. Compulsive behavior begins as a solution to another problem, a way of using pleasure to mask pain. Sadly, over time, the compulsion takes on a life of its own, and then becomes the problem.

Did you ever wake up the day after an eating, drinking, spending, or other type of binge filled with self-hatred and remorse? Beating yourself up doesn’t help you learn anything about why you acted that way or what you can do in the future to prevent compulsion from taking over. You just keep spinning your wheels.

Every compulsive act is symbolic of Super Stress. Super Stress results when you become anxious over a situation or relationship and feel helpless victimized, frustrated or angry. You tell yourself, that it’s awful and there’s nothing you can do about it. The more miserable you get, the more you crave a way to feel good. When the pain of your misery gets too great, you will binge again.

Now there is something you can do to de-stress yourself and regain power over you life. I call it the Four Level Plan. You can go through these four steps when you feel a craving coming on or even after a binge like a post mortem. Although you did something you regret, you can examine it and learn from it so future stress no longer triggers you.

Level One is the physical level. The first thing to do is identify the compulsive urges or binge episodes. Rate the intensity of the urge on a scale of 0 to 10 as if it were an emotional earthquake. Don’t rate yourself according to how much you ate, drank or spent, but how strong was the urge to do it. How much did you have to have it, eat it, buy it, drink it, etc? 6.3? 9.8? If you know EFT, now is the time to tap your craving away.

Level Two is the emotional level. For each compulsive act, ask yourself: What in my life is a 6.3 or a 9.8? What situation or relationship is involved? Be specific. Are you frantic because your child was put on probation, a dear one was just diagnosed with cancer, your spouse lost his job, or your dog ran away?

What strong feelings arose from that situation or experience? The four basic emotions are Mad, Glad, Sad, and Scared. Write down the situation or relationship that is painful and name your feeling. You may be experiencing more than one. You are angry with your teenager because she has not been doing her homework and also feel scared because she won’t get into college. Use EFT to deal with the situation and with your feelings until you have reached a state of peace or until you have resolved your problem.

Level Three is the level of thoughts and beliefs. What did you tell yourself about that upsetting situation that caused you to feel angry, frustrated, helpless or guilty? If a loved one has cancer perhaps you are secretly resenting that you might have to spend precious time taking care of him or, on the other hand, you feel enormous sadness at the possibility of losing someone you love. You might be telling yourself that you can’t live without him. If you had a fight with your spouse and are at an anger rating of 8.7 you might be telling yourself that if she really loved you she would…. Perhaps you feel like a martyr when you think that no one understands you. Use EFT and tap on each negative or fear thought or belief and notice how new ideas and understandings appear.

Level Four is the power level. How can you stop making yourself feel like a victim?
Now you must access your inner resources to change your life. What action can you take? If you use EFT for self help, do it now! EFT is the most powerful tool you have to make changes in your life and remove all sorts of cravings.

If you are someone that others often seek out to advise them when they are stuck, you might want to write out your problem as if you were writing to Dear Abbey. Then read it over and pretend that you are Abbey. What would the Inner Abbey say?

It is important to challenge the upsetting fear or angry thoughts that you discovered at Level Three to determine whether they are true or not. At this point you might want to consult a therapist or other wise advisor to coach you. If you are in a Twelve-Step group, call your sponsor or write a tenth step. Journal writing is always helpful for exploring your life. Level Four is also the place to call on your spiritual support. Use prayer and meditation. Get quiet. Do yoga, tai chi or even walking or jogging to calm your negative emotions and thoughts and let new ideas come forth that can shift your attitude.

As you apply the Four Level Plan you will become much more conscious of how you set yourself up to feel Super Stress, and you will also gain awareness of your physical, emotional and spiritual strengths. When you stop judging yourself, you can start loving yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Gloria Arenson, MS, MFT, D.CEP specializes in using EFT to treat stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, phobias, and compulsions. Her extensive knowledge of eating disorders and compulsive behaviors led her to write How to Stop Playing the Weighting Game, A Substance Called Food, Born To Spend, the award winning Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing, and co-author Freedom At Your Fingertips. Her latest book is Procrastination Nation. She is Past President of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP).