Does Pavlovian desire fade?

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    • #3738

      Hello Gillian, hello everyone

      I caught up on the webinar from 29 September last night, which I found very useful. As Gillian knows, I fractured my leg shortly after the previous webinar. This is a serious fracture, and I am non-weight-bearing for 12 weeks, so my sister is caring for me.

      This experience has made me think about aspects of the technique that I hadn’t thought about before. For example, in hospital, I was to a certain extent in a ‘real’ prison, because I could not get food when I wanted it. The same is partially true now I am at home, because I have to depend on my sister to buy the food. She has a sweet tooth, and she buys cakes, biscuits etc, so when I go through my desire, it has to be there and then rather than in the shop. As I can get around the house on two crutches, I can also reach the biscuit barrel!

      The fracture also gave me a new motivation because I researched which foods are best for bone healing. The technique has been useful for that, especially when I use ‘feeling sorry for myself’ as a justification to overeat. The food I am eating is by no means perfect (I am eating quite a lot of carbs for example, and I eat cakes and biscuits most days, though I try to make my own instead of processed ones). I am overeating less than before, but this is largely because my options are so restricted, and as a result I don’t feel I am doing the technique – it’s more that cutting back on overeating has been forced on me.

      My question is whether the Pavlovian ‘trigger’ ever goes away? I ask because I have not been able to go to the shop where I usually buy foods that I then overeat. It will be a very long time before I can do that – probably 8 months or more – because I am not at home while I am recovering.

      When I do go home, will the Pavlovian trigger be even stronger when I first go into the shop? Or is there a chance it will have faded over time through not being triggered?

      Sorry for the long message – not sure how useful it will be to others as I guess (hope!) not many of you will ever be in this situation.



    • #3744

      Hi Louise – good to hear from you and that you are out of hospital now and on the mend. You have a fascinating question about the Pavlovian conditioning. The standard, sort of by-the-book answer is that the conditioned, addictive desire fades as a result of experiencing it without satisfying and thus reinforcing it. It’s the same principle as with a phobia, where avoidance can even make the fears worse. It doesn’t fade with time; it fades through exposure.

      However, our intentions are key factors, and it is not your intention to avoid, which tends to happen for those who fear and/or resent their feelings of desire.

      So, working with any desire while you are house-bound and gaining true acceptance of it may well contribute to an empowered relationship with food when you do get back into the ‘real world’ outside. You may get some desire, but I doubt very much that you’ll feel as if you’re ‘back to square one’.

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