Was Tina Turner right when she posed the question “What’s Love Got to do with it?” This 1984 hit song showed us that we could take our heart out of the equation and just give in to our impulses. Ignoring our emotional side and making relationship decisions based on logic and yearnings might sound appealing to some people, but what are the implications? What are the potential pitfalls of going with our impulses and urges while disregarding the consequences of our actions?
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?
The fear of getting hurt and the need to protect yourself is a very real defense mechanism.
Being vulnerable and opening your heart to others can set you up for disappointment and rejection. But can we throw the basic human need for love to the back-burner and ignore it?
Is living with our animal nature enough to satisfy us?
If you are living on a roller-coaster of impulsive decisions to seek pleasure, are you satisfied?
You may recognize a lack of impulse control as phone addiction, overeating, giving into anger, financial ruin, relationship infidelity, or drinking too much. Have you experienced any of these in your own life? It could sound familiar, because in our modern society the need for instant gratification seems to be a constant theme of what motivates people.
If you feel your impulses are out of control and you realize that the patterns in your life are not working, it may be time to get help.
Taking on a new direction: Recognizing out of control behaviors
The occasional overindulgence is very normal.
Think back to your childhood. Most of us have had that experience when we were alone with a giant bag of candy. You love candy. There is a heap of candy in front of you. What else is there to do but eat the whole bag? During the process, the candy was enjoyable, even an indulgent experience, until that joy turned into an unbearable stomach ache that left you feeling sick for hours. It may be that you learned never to eat that much candy in one sitting again, or maybe you decided it was worth the price.
As we start to create patterns in our lives, some of these overindulgent behaviors have stuck with us.
We can’t stop at just one or two drinks, it seems impossible to put the phone away and be present, or maybe your relationship with food is not a healthy one.
Think about what behaviors in your life you have a hard time stopping when you know you should. When these problems seem to be causing your relationships to suffer, or they control your thoughts and actions, then it may be time to seek help.
- Write down any areas in your life where you have trouble controlling your impulses and delaying gratification. For example, if every time you walk into a store (let’s say Target) you end up spending three times as much as you planned to spend.
- Rank how strongly you feel the problem is impacting your life between 1-10. One being a very minor impact on your life and ten impacting your life so much that major negative consequences are about to happen or have already happened.
Emotional brain versus wise brain – Which one is getting more love?
Most humans strive to maximize pleasure and decrease pain, which could be why it’s easy to give into temptation like maxing out credit cards, overeating, or smoking.
Our emotional brain wants to give in to those pleasures even if it does not lead us in the direction we want to go.
Our wise brain knows we should save for retirement, go to the gym, and quit smoking, but it keeps getting overwritten by our emotional brain. You may not like what your wise mind has to say sometimes, but there are benefits to hearing it out if you want to change the direction of your sails.
Picture a sailboat journey and how the wise brain would captain the boat? If your wise brain was the captain, then it would make thoughtful and logical decisions to get you to your port safely and in a timely manner.
Some core characteristics of our wise brain are that it is prepared with education (it would know HOW to sail), it is disciplined (keeps you on course), it can admit mistakes while learning from them (it can self-correct), and it knows what the priorities are (getting to the destination safe).
The emotional brain:
On the other hand, if your emotional mind was the captain of the ship your journey may be filled with un-imagined twists and turns. Therefore, if the emotional brain was the captain of the ship, your journey may look very different. The emotional mind may see a breathtaking sunset and start sailing towards it. This would throw you off course and possibly get you lost. On the other hand, the emotional mind may get upset and decide to kick a hole in the boat. This could lead to disaster and even sink the ship.
Could the adventure be more exciting with this route? Possibly, but it can also have other consequences.
Try this activity:
Write down some of the most recent decisions that you have made (big or small). Do you feel like you were making those decisions with your “wise” brain or your “emotional” brain? Can you see a little of both in your decision making?
Learning how to delay instant gratification
So why should we learn to delay our gratifications from time to time?
What can this pause give to us that a quick indulgence cannot?
Pleasure is a good thing and it should be in our lives, but if we always seek pleasure and avoid any kind of pain then that can cause trouble down the road. For example, if you never eat healthy foods and only indulge in desserts then you may end up very sick with an increased risk of heart disease, among other health risks.
So, pick your pleasures wisely.
Learning to endure some pain and dissatisfaction in the short-term can give you even greater pleasure in the long-term.
Activities like overspending, drugs, and gambling may be fun in the moment but typically don’t bring out the best in who we truly are. Delaying buying something until you save up the cash, instead of putting it on a credit card, may seem painful but it would keep you out of debt in the long run.
One way you can take a “pause” in you day is to stop and think about what your priorities are for this week, month, year or even five years from now.
Having clear priorities in life can help you navigate during tough times. Do you have certain financial priorities or personal goals that you want to achieve? Do you also have general priorities in life, such as putting family before work? Having clear priorities will go a long way in delaying gratification.
Try this activity:
Think about your top 10 values and write them down. To be able to delay immediate gratification you need to know what is important to you. The first step is to find out what you value the most? Do you value fun, love, family, adventure, kindness? Let these values guide your decisions. If you value family the most but find no time to connect with family, then something needs to change to align your values to your life.
How to add the love back into the equation – self-love!
Let’s now look at another famous love song by Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All.”
This song teaches us a very different lesson, that self-love is the greatest love of all. Giving yourself the love that you deserve can be a game changer.
We all need to be supported and encouraged to take this epic journey of discovering how to love yourself. It is self-love that will teach us about the meaning of a genuine existence and living to our full potential.
Could it be that we pick these impulsive self-destructive behaviors because we don’t care much for ourselves? Could building our self-worth and self-love be the answer to how to control these behaviors. Think about how you view yourself. What do you see? How do you truly feel about yourself? If you don’t like what you see, there are ways of forgiving yourself for the past and building up that self-love.
So, what’s love got to do with it? Everything!
Love is a basic human need, and the ability to love yourself is the most valuable love there is. Loving yourself means you know the difference between the need to pamper yourself verses overindulging in something that will cause you pain down the road.
- Love yourself enough to say no to things that don’t serve you
- Love yourself enough to be out of your comfort zone
- Care for yourself enough to ask for help when you need it
- Love yourself enough to do the things that bring out the best in you
- Love yourself enough to be around people who will grow your soul
- Care for yourself enough to move towards your greatest potential
Check us out at www.turningstonecounseling.com for more information!