The Three Minute Therapist

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Beat Addictions and Procrastination

Beat Addictions and Procrastination

Three Minute Refutations (TMR) involve a powerful exercise for changing your addictive thinking.

While the Three Minute Exercise (in my book, Three Minute Therapy see pp. 9,18, 32, 40, etc.) helps you dispute your demands--your "musts" and "shoulds"--Three Minute Refutations targets your rationalizations or excuses, which arise from your demands. (Also available at www.ThreeMinuteTherapy.com)

For example, if you have bills to pay and find it uncomfortable to do so, you may tell yourself you "must" avoid that discomfort. Or if you have the urge to eat chocolate when eating it is prohibited on your diet, you may think you "must" satisfy this urge. These "musts" lead to self-defeating behaviors. The Three Minute Exercise (TME) is ideal for targeting the "musts."

However, the "musts" may encourage you to make excuses for not paying the bills or not abstaining from the chocolate, excuses such as, "I don't have enough time to pay all the bills tonight, I'll pay them tomorrow" or "I'll have only one piece of chocolate, then I'll stop."

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Irrational Belief: "I absolutely MUST satisfy my urge for chocolate right now. I can't stand feeling frustrated."

Excuse or Rationalization: "I'll have only one piece, then I'll stop."

This is where TMRs comes in. They target these excuses and rationalizations. Along with the TMEs, it mounts a two-pronged attack on your addiction. The TMEs target your demands, while the TMRs target your excuses. 

TMRs prove effective for behavioral difficulties including procrastination and addictions. They consist of two elements:excuses and refuting the excuses. Let's begin with excuses.

Excuses are statements we make to ourselves which make procrastinating, overeating, overdrinking, or smoking seem reasonable, when in reality they're destructive because they block, interfere, or sabotage your long-term goals.

Refutations put the lie to the excuses and state how they're false or self-destructive.

Here's an example of a completed TMR: 

Excuse: "It's ok to drink or get high right now because it'll be the last time."

Refutations:
1. I've used this excuse hundreds of times. It hasn't worked before and it won't work now. It always has led to the next time.

2. This "last time" could mean losing my job and ruining my career.

3. How many days is this one going to last?

4. I don't HAVE TO indulge this "last time."

5. This "last time" could destroy my relationship.

6. I'm lying to myself, pure and simple.

7. I can change this statement to: "No more times!"

8. I'll be better off now, better off tomorrow, and better off for the rest of my life with: "No more drugs or alcohol!"

9. Since I choose to use, I can choose not to use.

10. If I choose not to use, the discomfort I'll feel will be temporary, not forever.

Instructions:

1. Write and read these refutations five times a day until you've memorized them. Then write them from memory five times daily.

2. Whenever you have the urge for alcohol or drugs, identify the thoughts that make using seem reasonable. Then refute these excuses.

3. If the excuses seem to be gaining the upper hand, externalize the debate by writing down the dialogue or saying it out loud.

4. Practice, practice, practice.

Dr. Michael R. Edelstein is a clinical psychologist and the author of Three Minute Therapy and Stage Fright.

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