Managing Cravings Destructive to Diabetes through Detection and Assessment

Shelly Young, LPC Health Guide
  • Mindfulness meditation involves techniques offering great benefits for decreasing the intensity and frequency of destructive urges. Since dealing with diabetes involves necessary health-enhancing disciplines, it is important to work with destructive urges that get in the way of your self-care program.   


    Research supports the use of mindfulness for managing destructive behaviors including drugs and alcohol and binge eating issues discussed in the book, Mindfulness-based Treatment Approaches (Academic Press, 2000). For me personally, even though I worked with mindfulness for addiction to sugar and junk food, the practice decreased the overall level of compulsivity within myself.   

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    I like to think of destructive urges as the "I have to" syndrome. What exactly is the sense of "I have to." Maybe there is some self-talk, "I must have that ice cream cone." Maybe there are uncomfortable sensations in the body associated with anxiety or other emotions. Maybe there are mental images of that "thing" you want or an activity that you must do." But in the moment of being out of control and "just doing it" you are on automatic pilot and unaware of the processes that I just described.  


    The trick in resisting destructive urges is "divide and conquer." If you analyze the urge into its components, it becomes the sum of a few basic sensory experiences. If the separate components of your experience go undetected, they criss-cross and multiply with each other, producing the impression of an overwhelming compulsion that can't be resisted, despite your best intentions. What then are the natural components of the urge process that must be detected?  


    Part of the urge process usually involves thoughts, such as memories, judgments, fantasies, plans, wishes or beliefs. Thoughts may take the form of mental conversations in the head or mental pictures. Another piece of the urge process involves uncomfortable body sensations. The actual "feeling" part of the emotion is a pattern of sensation in your body that may be in just one location of your body or possibly filling your entire body. Typically, the urge process also involves remembering or fantasizing about some pleasure associated with the behavior.    


    The problem is that we only think about the pleasure and forget the far greater pain resulting from the behavior. It is important to remember that when you are thinking about the pleasure associated with a behavior, you are also feeling that pleasure in your body. The body pleasure associated with memory and fantasy is sometimes subtle and hard to detect. But if you can detect it, then you can observe it with detachment and it won't turn into a craving.  


    As you can see, the urge process is complex. It involves different types of sensations distributed in different patterns throughout your body while at the same time images and self-talk are taking place in your mind. The fact is that the whole urge process is constantly changing and in a state of flux. So the phrase "negative urge" implies more. It implies a force that drives us to do a behavior which is not in the best interest of ourselves or others. So there are two important questions that must be answered.  First, how do the thoughts and body sensations turn into this driving force? Second, what can you do about it?  


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    Thoughts and body sensations become a driving force when we attach to them rather than just let them come and go. By bringing mindful awareness to the urge process, we can be attentive and allowing of each component. The urge then loses its force and eventually passes away. It can return, so staying conscious all day long is important.   

    Thoughts and feelings cannot be stopped but we can develop the skill of observing them with clarity and detachment until they lose their power. This skill grows with practice. You can practice the skill by 1) Dividing the urge process into its mind/body parts  2) Keep track of which parts are present in any given moment, by saying to yourself, "talk, image or feeling," whichever happens to be arising in that moment 3) Observe the parts in a gentle matter-of-fact way, the best that you can, noticing how change occurs in each component of the urge. Urges will always rise up and then pass away.    


    As your skill grows, thoughts and body sensations will have less of a hold on you and will pass more quickly and easily. Decreasing or eliminating destructive behaviors will greatly enhance your success at diabetes management and enhance your sense of well-being.      

Published On: April 06, 2010