What would it be like if you could easily stop doing whatever it is that you want to quit? There are bad thoughts, addictions, annoying tendencies and habits, as well as disruptive and hurtful behavior. Oh, if we could just turn it off, wouldn’t that be great?

Years ago, when I was getting my Master of Education Degree in Counseling, the professor at a seminar instructed us to come up with a “brand new counseling technique” that we would share with the class. I thought it was a good idea to inject some humor into the activity. When it was time for my presentation I described a new technique that was “truly revolutionary”. The description was as follows:

  1. It would only take one very short session.
  2. It was guaranteed to work.
  3. There was a catch—the client must listen carefully and agree to do exactly what the therapist said.
  4. The client would come in, sit down, and the therapist would look at him and say, “Stop it.”

The prospect of this “new technique” is interesting because it reminds us that we are the ones who must control our own behavior, and it can be achieved. It is also hilarious because, if it were that easy, there would be no need for the painstaking efforts of the therapist to develop a relationship, instruct, and encourage.

But the question remains, “How can be just stop it?” People must be honest with themselves in a setting where they are not judged or constantly defending themselves. They need to talk to someone not emotionally involved (not disappointed or angry at them). Most importantly they need to be heard with such intensity that the result is that they can think more clearly and begin to develop a workable plan to modify their behavior. It helps to know that this is a process and direction is more important than willpower. Our culture’s tendency to want a quick fix is a major problem for recovery as well as the attitude of victimization (“it is everyone else’s fault”). Yes, it is a little more complicated than it seems at first.

So, if you really want to “stop It,” be honest with yourself and your counselor and commit to the process. If you work as hard as your therapist works for you, you will have a much better chance developing the skills to control your behavior and eventually say “no” to want you want to stop.

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