The Three-Second Rule

Get rid of a bad thought within the first three seconds

The following is based on what a therapist taught me early in my recovery:

First: bad thoughts are not sins, at least not at first. We have no control as to the temptations that enter our minds. It’s what we do with them that matters.

Now, what's the difference between a thought and a fantasy. The basic difference is duration. 

A thought is 2 to 5 seconds, after that it’s starting to become a fantasy and you have to be vigilant enough and motivated enough to dismiss the thought within 2 to 5 seconds. 

Also, fighting a bad thought can be just as bad as entertaining a bad thought – the result can be the same in our brain.

How to deal with temptations or cravings:

This therapist had an office with two doors, an in-door and out-door, and he would say to his clients when a craving or temptation comes in, your attitude must be just enough to dismiss it. 

When a bad thought comes in the door you need to say: “Oh, hi, I knew you'd be back. 

I was expecting you. There's a door goodbye.”  In other words: “Hi—welcome—goodbye.“

You’re not upset with yourself, but you’re motivated just enough to dismiss it.  And the thought is gone within three seconds.

The two things you don't want to do or to say is: “I can't believe you're back in here again, you weren't ever supposed to come! I was never going to be tempted again. I'm not supposed to have these cravings. This is horrible, this is wrong! What are you doing here?  I mean, you are attractive, but I still just wish you would get out of here. What are you doing now? 

Notice, with this example, you’ve gone a lot longer than five seconds. You’re focusing on it. You’re getting all churned up about it.  All you can think about is that bad thought. 

The other thing you don't want to do is to say “Oh hi, welcome back, I was hoping you'd come, have a seat, let's talk…..” 

You need just the right amount of motivation to dismiss the thought and not get upset.  

Guys who are successful at overcoming this problem are often lighthearted. They find joy in the process. They have accountability. 

Understand within yourself that what you're shooting for is motivation to dismiss the urge in the early stage, but not get caught up in it and be upset by it. 

For me, what has been helpful when a negative thought enters my mind, is to immediately say a prayer: Heavenly Father, please help me get rid of this thought. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”  And usually, the thought disappears from my mind within seconds.

Remember--do this in the first three seconds!

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