There are times when impulsiveness dominates us. The impulse arises from that irrational and primitive part that we all have as human beings. We could make a comparison with a beast which, although we educate it, in certain situations will tend to act in a manner consistent with its nature. And this regardless of whether or not this action benefits its interests. In this way, the impulses test our self-control.
Dominant impulses are the basis of a multitude of psychological problems. We can cite as a reference addictions or dependencies, but we also find uncontrolled impulses in disorders such as bulimia or borderline disorder.
Impulsivity can manifest itself in the form of emotional tension that is difficult to alleviate. She causes us to succumb to her demands, to do what we don’t want, and to feel a very strong relief from the tension. But we know this relief is fleeting. It quickly evaporates and leads us, almost inevitably, to another much deeper and desperate feeling: guilt and repentance.
After a while, this disheartening guilt may fade into oblivion. Our shadows threaten to take control again and we repeat the impulsive pattern that momentarily gratifies us. But we know that we are going to plunge again into repentance and the “ I am not able, I cannot ”. We are therefore entering a powerful cycle that can end up destroying a good part of our life.
Where do the impulses come from?
We cannot know for sure what the exact origin of the impulses is. However, we can study each person, verify their life history and give probability values to certain hypotheses.
And not only have we inherited it, but we can also learn it by imitation. If we have seen that in our home the problems are taken with impatience and impulsiveness, we will have learned to solve the adversities by following this model. The good news is that we can learn to modify what we have already acquired.
Studies also tell us that the lack of serotonin in the brain is responsible for a greater predisposition to impulsivity. This is why SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are effective in treating these disorders.
But in this sense, it should be borne in mind that medication has its limits. At first, it may be able to inhibit us, but its action will not teach us other functional behaviors. We can also develop tolerance and experience certain side effects.
It seems that certain emotional voids in childhood are, to some extent, responsible for our overcompensation for certain impulses in our adult lives. When we retrace the past life of people with pathological impulses, we notice a certain lack of availability, affection or emotional regulation. These “gaps” seek to be filled with immediate and intense satisfaction.
How to deal with the impulsiveness that dominates us?
Learning to deal with the impulses that dominate us is not an easy task. As we have said, Impulse sometimes behaves like a beast that is not easy to tame. It takes patience, willpower, but most of all, conscious practice.
However, even with all of this, having full control of our impulses is unrealistic. It is therefore strongly recommended to go step by step. And don’t forget to reward us for each success.
Take time to think
The first step in getting rid of the impulse is to get rid of the situation that precipitated it. When we move away from this situation, even for 10 or 15 minutes, we restrict the freedom of impulse. In short, we are restraining its power to act.
The pulses are short lived, even though they are very intense. This is an advantage that we must take advantage of. The more time you save without performing the impulsive act, the more likely you are to resolve the situation correctly.
Identify the impulse
You have to give it the name it deserves: “ It’s just another of my impulses, I don’t have to do what it demands ”. The key is to dissociate your impulse from yourself, so that you see them as an enemy who wants to bring you down. Not like something that is part of you.
Focus the five senses on another question
While the emotional tension decreases in intensity, it is advisable to do another activity that entertains us and occupies our mind. You can go and buy something unimportant, for example.
It will make you think about what you are going to buy, talk to the seller, take out your wallet, count the money… These mundane actions allow you to concentrate and save time. It is not advisable to change the impulse for another. Indeed, leaving the conflictual situation and going to drink or smoke is to change one impulse for another and that is not healthy.
Think about your goals and their consequences
“ If I realize the impulse, what will happen? Will I feel better? How long will the relief last? Do I want to be a person who is not able to control myself? Is this attitude in line with my values? “If you clearly know what your purpose in life is and what your values are, and you do something at odds with it, you will create cognitive dissonance in your mind.
This dissonance is an uncomfortable state of mind. It can certainly be generated by a desire, but above all you must not give in to it. Make sure that everything you do is consistent in your life and matches the goals you have set for yourself as a person.
Solve the problem (if there is one)
If the problem has a solution, it doesn’t hurt to explore the alternatives you can put in place to resolve it. To do this, you can implement the problem-solving technique. If the problem is a product of your imagination and does not have a solution, it is better to label it as such and try to ignore it.
Containing the impulse inevitably comes with a certain tension which is not entirely pleasant. It is because of this same discomfort that ultimately the impulse dominates us.
The key is to dominate it, even if it hurts, even if it causes anxiety. Anxiety or emotional discomfort are nothing more than emotions produced by chemical reactions in the brain, but they do not kill or cause disaster. When you learn to tolerate them, you will find that they are short lived and decrease in intensity.
When impulses dominate us, it is easy to fall into their trap. But realizing how they work is a big step towards controlling our own emotions. Once we know what’s happening to us, where it’s coming from, and how we can control it, the hard part is staying in control. With patience and large doses of acceptance of discomfort, you will learn to overcome your impulses.