Identifying the Cues

Charles Duhigg, in his book ‘The Power of Habit’, writes that almost all cues (the thing that reminds or triggers my brain to seek a reward through a certain behaviour) falls into five categories: Location, Time, Emotional State, Other People and Immediately-proceeding action. Below are the cues to pretty much every relapse I have had from age 12 to 30 in these categories:

Location
The number one place I relapse is my bedroom. I haven’t moved out my mother’s house for all sorts of reasons but at 30 I intend to move out. This is due to various reasons but mainly because I have been sleeping in the same room for 30 years and a major change of environment may help break the PMO habit. Other locations include hotel rooms and other people’s houses. Hotel room relapses were caused by hangovers. Other people’s houses were always done in bed. The bedroom is the place I most likely relapse in. I have relapsed while showering before. I brought my phone with me to the bathroom, silly idea.

I try to reduce the amount of time I spend in my bedroom. I have committed to this idea by buying a tablet with a keyboard so I can write and do other duties outside instead of being stuck at home. Unfortunately, I don’t have the privilege of additional rooms at home; and so as a designer, I still have to work on my home computer within my bedroom. However I believe changing the environment has to happen. If location is one of my biggest cues, then surely leaving the house I have spent for 30 years in, would be a major step in breaking the habit.

Time
I’ve relapsed all day and night, but the most popular times are the evening, about to go sleep, or the morning, about to fully wake up. Daytime relapses are usually due to hangovers and staying at home all day. I believe time is obviously linked to location, the bed. I’ll have a full blog post about this soon.

Emotional State
Things that saps self-discipline and willpower will affect how I deal with urges. This include all the below. All of these can be managed:

Lack of Achievement (procrastination)
I plan things to do everyday and when I don’t do them due to my own stupidness, I become depressed. I have to learn how to plan accordingly, be honest with myself and be patient. I have to be realistic about myself and eliminate distractions.

Stress Relief
During stressful times, the PMO habit gives me relieve. It becomes a session to just calm down, gain some pleasure and escape reality. The problem with this is that it lasts a very short time. In fact, right after I gain the reward I become depressed. However there are other ways to deal with stress. I believe I must explore these to find alternative stress reliefs that do not turn into a bad habit.

Hangover
Hangovers completely deplete my willpower and self-discipline. I’m also depressed when I am hungover because I know I am incapacitated to do literally anything, which then leads of lack of achievement because I am not doing the stuff I am suppose to do that given day. There is a simple solution to this; Stop drinking or drink responsibly.

Arousal
‘Morning wood’ is something to overcome in the morning. Thinking about past sexual experiences at home or whilst in bed. Arousal is natural but sadly leads to relapses. My brain believes it is explicit content that I need to relief myself from arousal.

Sleepy
Tiredness affects my self-discipline both in the morning and in the evening. A regular sleeping schedule and willpower will help this.

Other People
Alone
Most urges occur when I am alone. Although being in a relationship seems like a fix for this, it isn’t practical, eventually I will be alone and will have to deal with this.

Sexual Partner
I’ve woken up with multiple sexual partners and experienced urges. These urges are easy to deal with because there is no way of actually relapsing. I’ve never relapsed with a sexual partner.

My mother
My mother stresses me out all the time with her passive aggressiveness. The mother-son relationship has now got to a point where I believe I am unable to live with her. Maturity has a role in this. A change in environment for me has to be made to get the relationship with my mother where I would want it to be. The stress of my mother could be a cause for escape.

Things online
Whilst at home, online images or things said by people in videos can trigger urges. The images, words or phrases are said repeatedly in my mind and then I start to remember explicit images and scenes. This can occur anywhere, but at home it can become a real struggle. I have yet to find out how to deal with it. This can happen at any moment at home.

Immediate – Preceding Action (what action came before the urge)
This is the thing I struggle most to identify. I’ve done so many actions before urges. I suppose the most common action that takes place is laying down:

Lying down (tired – lazy)
Lying down (going to bed)
Lying down (waking up)

Then eventually picking up a device to proceed with the routine.

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