Monthly Archives: September 2009

The 4 R’s

This comes from Pema Chodra’s book, Getting Unstuck. It’s one way of looking at getting past unhealthy habitual behavior that we want to change:
The 4 R’s: Recognizing, Refraining (not doing the problem behavior), Relaxing (into the feeling), Resolve (to do this again, and again, etc until the behavior is no longer a problem). 

This probably sounds simplistic, but it’s basically the same thing we encourage in 12 Step programs or what I’ve talked about for years with individual clients. 

Recognizing:  We have to acknowledge something IS a problem before we can change it.

Refraining:  The first effort at changing the behavior is usually more of a “white knuckle” attempt, but that’s OK if it gets us started.

Relaxing:  Counter to the meaning of the word “relaxing”, this is usually the hard part for most of us, since it means sitting with the emotion that drives the behavior.  The behavior is usually an attempt to AVOID this emotion, so it’s counter intuitive at first.

Resolve:  When we really want to change the behavior, we will have the energy to continue this. 

These come in stages.  At first, we may be able to recognize the problem, but not be able to move into the refraining stage.  Then once we try refraining, it may not last long because we can’t get through the relaxing into the feeling part, and so on. 

Most important to remember:  Don’t judge yourself as a failure if you can’t get past one of these stages.  It’s part of the process.  You may just not be ready yet.  That’s OK.  When you are, you’ll give it another shot.