Author Topic: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour  (Read 5034 times)

Luscious

conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« on: February 10, 2015, 12:36:10 AM »
I struggle a lot with conflicting desires. Its like having an angel on one shoulder and devil on the other. For example I really love drinking wine and usually have a couple of glasses at least 5 nights a week but I decided to not drink anymore during the week days.  I know that this is for the best and I feel much better when I do this but there is a part of my mind that says "just have it, it won't hurt, you only live once" etc.  If I am feeling a bit down that day or tired I often will end up giving in and having the thing I know I dont really want.    I could give endless examples of this kind of behaviour pattern in my life.  Junk food, mindless reality TV, looking at porn, exercising, looking for work, honing my skills etc etc.   Its just this never ending battle between what will make my life better and perhaps happier verses giving in to instant gratification.     It seems that Im distracting myself from uncomfortable feelings a lot of the time.    I feel bored, frustrated, lonely and have self deprecating thoughts and I then engage a behaviour that will distract me until the mood passes.  I guess I know that what I really need to do is sit with the feeling and allow it to be there.   I find this extremely difficult to do though.   I am now on anti depressants because the intensity of feelings was to much to cope with and all I wanted to do was sleep or lay around.  I feel better on the medication but still I am distracting myself.   Anyone have any advise about how to change there sorts of behaviour patterns.   I do not want to be on meds forever and I do not want to be engaging in self defeating behaviours and thought any more.

Marc

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2015, 09:20:14 AM »
I would start by giving up drinking completely. It will be easier than giving it up during the week days and then reinforcing your habit during the weekend. Alcohol is a serious depressant. My father was an alcoholic and he was very depressed at the end of his life. He never used to get to the point of being drunk but he drank consistently through the week.

I do not think that all you have to do is sit and observe your emotions and stuff. There are times where you have to take action. I don't believe meditation can do all the job by itself. Easy to say I know...

Luscious

Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2015, 09:33:25 PM »
I would start by giving up drinking completely. It will be easier than giving it up during the week days and then reinforcing your habit during the weekend. Alcohol is a serious depressant. My father was an alcoholic and he was very depressed at the end of his life. He never used to get to the point of being drunk but he drank consistently through the week.

I do not think that all you have to do is sit and observe your emotions and stuff. There are times where you have to take action. I don't believe meditation can do all the job by itself. Easy to say I know...
Research shows that drinking moderately is not only ok but is beneficial.   If I do not drink I feel like I may as well go live in a monastery because every single social occasion everybody drinks. Its a social lubricant. I Appreciate your advise and I'm sorry about your father but I wasn't looking for advise about giving up drinking.  I do realise that sometimes action I is important however I was more looking for advise on how to handle these difficult conflicting thoughts and emotions.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2015, 11:53:24 PM »
You can either make up a story to tell yourself it's ok, you can look to change your morality so you don't feel bad, or you can stop said activity (the latter being the easiest Imo).

Matthew

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2015, 01:22:10 AM »
If you are feeling down the worst thing you can do is have a glass or two of wine: alcohol is a depressant. You obviously have a lot of things you'd like to change so start with one, stick with it, practice as I've suggested in your other thread, and, most importantly, don't give yourself a hard time about it all. Baby steps to start with, then more as you develop calm, equanimity and determination, will get you there.

M
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Middleway

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2015, 01:29:43 AM »
You did a pretty good assessment of your behaviour patterns. Behaviour patterns are like weather patterns. You cannot control them. You have absolutely no choice in thinking those thoughts or carrying out those actions (eating junk food, or watching porn etc.). When certain conditions are met, it will rain. When certain conditions are not met, it will not snow etc. Similarly, as you described when you are feeling down or bored, or lonely etc., you get these depressing thoughts and then to get distracted you will watch reality TV and other actions.

So, you need to ensure you those conditions causing those unwanted behaviours are not met. You will have to replace your daily routine that is causing those unwanted behaviour patterns with different routine. Go take guitar lessons, go join local toast masters club, play tennis, volunteer at local shepherds of good hope, or go to a bar drink a couple of beers and watch whatever games on TV. Anything but the same old routine. Do this for six weeks. It takes about six weeks for getting into new habits.

Good luck!
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Luscious

Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2015, 07:33:56 AM »
You did a pretty good assessment of your behaviour patterns. Behaviour patterns are like weather patterns. You cannot control them. You have absolutely no choice in thinking those thoughts or carrying out those actions (eating junk food, or watching porn etc.). When certain conditions are met, it will rain. When certain conditions are not met, it will not snow etc. Similarly, as you described when you are feeling down or bored, or lonely etc., you get these depressing thoughts and then to get distracted you will watch reality TV and other actions.

So, you need to ensure you those conditions causing those unwanted behaviours are not met. You will have to replace your daily routine that is causing those unwanted behaviour patterns with different routine. Go take guitar lessons, go join local toast masters club, play tennis, volunteer at local shepherds of good hope, or go to a bar drink a couple of beers and watch whatever games on TV. Anything but the same old routine. Do this for six weeks. It takes about six weeks for getting into new habits.

Good luck!

Its true I have no choice in thinking the thoughts but of course there is choice in carrying out the actions. Unfortunately I tend to choose to carry them out though.

Alex

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2015, 08:15:26 AM »
Its true I have no choice in thinking the thoughts but of course there is choice in carrying out the actions. Unfortunately I tend to choose to carry them out though.

This is what we do. It's called 'the human condition' ;)
As you have read above, people have different ways of handling this kind of issues. Whatever you "choose", be kind to yourself, but keep bringing attention to it, keep noticing and exploring what your reactions are, etc.

I meant to write this in your other thread, where you mentioned not being up for the required ascetism.
I beleive in a middle way.  For me this means among other things that I'm not forcing any kind of healthy behavior in daily life or making it unnacessarily hard for myself. I don't have to be a perfect student to progress, maybe quite the contrary...

Jeremy

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2015, 08:35:34 AM »
For about 10 years (from 22 years of age till 32) I was much like Luscious. I was periodically depressive, always anxious, and had a lot of compulsive behaviours (porn and intoxicant consumption). I was in a foul mood most of the time, and easily angered.

Nowadays I have no depression, occasionally have mild anxiety of short duration, and very infrequent compulsive behaviours. Watching porn nowadays is a bizarre experience for me: All I see are young well-formed apes having sex. It's almost as erotic as watching dogs copulating. I can barely get it up.

I want to keep this post short because I am working.

You say "just have it, it won't hurt, you only live once". That's exactly how it is with me. Unless you directly experience the negative effects of something, you won't drop it. Once you have experienced it, you would be as inclined to do it as put your hand in the fire.

The way to drop these things is not through discipline. Discipline is like morality. You do it because others say you shouldn't.

The way to drop these things is by sensing them destroying your calm and equanimity. But, to sense this, you need to have calm and coolness in the first place.

Calmness and coolness comes from abandoning the gross things, from developing sensitivity. Then, you become very sensitive to your internal state, and can sense how little things rock the boat, agitate the waters of your mind and body, leading to stress and chronic pain.

My advice: Sleep 8 hours a day, become a vegan, do anapanasati.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2015, 08:55:15 AM by Jeremy »

Dharmic Tui

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2015, 10:00:24 AM »
Good post Jeremy. Except maybe the veganism :p

There is something to be said for the discipline and mindfulness though. There's a difference for instance between inhaling food like an automaton and skilfully enjoying a meal. A lot of the time we're chasing pleasure rather than savouring now.

Jeremy

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2015, 02:20:06 PM »
It occurred to me the Buddha has exactly the prescription for Luscious' problem. He called it the Noble Eightfold Path.

Except it isn't a path as much as it is an agglomeration of complexes of practice and philosophy. Some of which are poorly explained.

Take for instance, Right Living. He says no butchering and weapons dealing etc. But, in my day to day life, I think it more encompassing than this. Some jobs soak up all your energy. The energy you need for spiritual development.

Look at a bhikku's day. He gets up, he walks to the village for food, he comes back, he eats, then he does sitting practice. All this before noon.

Look at the order of activities. When the monk sits down to meditate, it is the best time of the day. He was just freshly rested, exercised and calorified. By this time he has not spoken a word to anyone.

How many of us have jobs that allow us to emulate this? Most of us have to grab the odd 15 minutes here and there. Some of us have jobs that require a lot of talking (with customers and such).
« Last Edit: February 11, 2015, 02:35:52 PM by Jeremy »

Dharmic Tui

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2015, 04:47:26 PM »
I guess that's what monastic life exists for. My current job is mentally the most taxing I've had. Most days involve several hundred pieces of email correspondence, having to navigate various corporate entities bureaucratic procedures, 40 odd phone calls, 10-20 live customers, a couple of dozen conversations with staff, and after thats done I get to do some work. I'm lucky to fit in the odd 30 second period of mindfulness. Or I literally run away and hide at a park down the road for a few minutes.

On the flipside my mindfulness allows me the energy to do all that without losing my shit.

Middleway

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2015, 10:56:03 PM »

Its true I have no choice in thinking the thoughts but of course there is choice in carrying out the actions. Unfortunately I tend to choose to carry them out though.

Okay, you do choose to do those things. So, what is the problem?
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Jeremy

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2015, 05:38:20 AM »
I guess that's what monastic life exists for. My current job is mentally the most taxing I've had. Most days involve several hundred pieces of email correspondence, having to navigate various corporate entities bureaucratic procedures, 40 odd phone calls, 10-20 live customers, a couple of dozen conversations with staff, and after thats done I get to do some work. I'm lucky to fit in the odd 30 second period of mindfulness. Or I literally run away and hide at a park down the road for a few minutes.

On the flipside my mindfulness allows me the energy to do all that without losing my shit.
Well, we are assured that the various elements of the path will eventually come together within 7 lifetimes at most. Some of us just want it ASAP, is all. I can't bear the thought of having to go through it all again. All that trouble. Even this life is getting boring.

For me, not having Right Living is a major retarding factor. Like you, I am too busy.

Alex

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2015, 12:54:07 PM »
Well, we are assured that the various elements of the path will eventually come together within 7 lifetimes at most.

Who assures this?

Jeremy

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2015, 03:49:27 PM »
Gautama Siddhartha, himself. Applicable only to stream enterers though.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2015, 04:01:24 PM by Jeremy »

Alex

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2015, 07:30:51 PM »
Gautama Siddhartha, himself. Applicable only to stream enterers though.
I don't know why I asked the question, as I'm not really into discussing things that can't be experienced. I'm sorry.

All the best,
Alex

Jeremy

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Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2015, 03:05:28 AM »
Neither did Gautama liked speculating. He taught things he came into direct knowledge of.

Max

Re: conflicting desires - self defeating behaviour
« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2015, 04:53:49 PM »
Luscious, what you wrote in the initial text is a very accurate description of how our minds work. The normal behaviour of an untrained mind is to move away from the unpleasant and to try to hold on to the pleasant. We cannot stay with the unpleasant. We try to divert our attention to somewhere else, try to fabricate a pleasant experience in order to cover the difficult experience over or even try to space out by drinking, doing drugs etc. These patterns are very strong, it's basically what we have done all our lives before we started the training in mindfulness / vipassana.

Yes, it would be nice if changing behaviour patterns could be done by willpower. If we could just decide not to drink alcohol it would be nice and life would be very smooth indeed. However, that's not how our minds work.
In addition, I also don't think that disctracting you further by diverting your attention to other pleasant things such as playing the guitar will really solve your problems at the root.

I am totally convinced the real remedy for changing behaviour patterns is to bring mindfulness to them. Start being interested in the stuff that is difficult for you. What is the story you are telling yourself when you are bored or are feeling lonely? What is happening in the mind? What is happening in the body? Try to get as much "information" out of these moments, they are increadibly valuable. Why is that? Because WISDOM (pañña) arises from that. And it is this wisdom that ultimately transforms the mind.

Now I think you need to be on the lookout for these points:
-Do not "intellectualize" the situation you are working with, i.e. you don't have to come up with an intellectual answer to why you are feeling the way you are feeling, what you could do differently, etc. It's enough if you stayed mindful
-Don't do it with an attitude to pay attention to these mindstates "in oder for them to go away". That's aversion at work and this will basically lock out any progress
-Find your balance: Don't burn yourself out by forcing you to be with the most difficult of your mindstates for too long. Know when to move away a little, when to take care of yourself (I suggest metta practice for yourself)

Lastly, I wanted to encourage you. It seems to me that "you already have what it takes". You seem to know and see many of the patterns that are difficult for you. It's much more difficult for somebody who does not have this initial understanding to change his life towards a more meaningful one.


 

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