|"You must always remember..." collage by Lani with textures from FlyPaper|
So the idea here is that we will generally have a little slip or setback with our goals but we don't need to make it into an "oh what the hell" event. (We don't need to let AVE or Abstinence Violation Effect get the better of our intentions.)
Alan Marlatt first started working on relapse prevention and the abstinence violation effect while studying cigarette smokers who were trying to quit in the 1970s. He discovered that people who considered the act of smoking a single cigarette after they had quit to be evidence of a lack of willpower were much more likely to let a momentary lapse become a full-blown relapse. Since then, he has become one of the world's leading authorities on preventing relapse. "People with a strong abstinence violation effect relapse much more quickly," said Marlatt. A single slip solidifies their sense that they are a failure and cannot quit, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So what should you do instead? Marlatt suggested that you tell yourself, "I made a mistake. What can I do differently next time? How can I learn from this?" Also remind yourself that this happens to almost everybody, so don't let yourself get discouraged.
To stay with the elephant metaphor, if we are a serious elephant trainer, caring for our elephants well- being, we need to have a plan in place for when they stumble or trip. That's where Dr. Norcross's little "slip card" is very helpful. As I filled the little card, I started thinking about the elephant. If you were really training a real elephant and it really stumbled, you wouldn't say "oh I quit, what the hell" and let it jump off a cliff! Of course not! You would talk nicely to it and encourage it to get up and continue. You might even let it have a rest for a couple of minutes. So why wouldn't we do the same for ourselves? Good question.
If you haven't taken Christine Carter's eCourse it looks like she's doing a second round and there seems to be a special rate on for the rest of the day. You can check it out here.
Now I need to look at the rest of the material on Dr. Norcross's Changeology website along with the research on relapse prevention.