Friday, October 14, 2011

What kind of cookie are you making? Understanding Cross Compulsivity

A metaphor to understand cross-compulsivity is the process of making a cookie. One of the first things you do in making cookies is to review the list of ingredients. Typically this list includes flour, eggs, water, sweetener, fat, and a raising agent. Beyond the basics, most of the other ingredients reflect the type of cookie you are making. If you’re making chocolate chip cookies, you need chocolate chips. If you want oatmeal raisin, you need those ingredients. White-chocolate, macadamia with cran-raisin requires those ingredients.

Using the metaphor further, a person can make a slight change in the ingredients and achieve different results. For example, there are many options in the type of fat to use. If you use butter, you get a soft, creamy cookie. Margarine gives you are smaller, harder cookie. (In the cooking field, these nuances are a big deal!) Each of the different types of fat results in slightly different taste and textures.

Coming back to cross-compulsivity, many of the ingredients between cross-compulsive behaviors are the same. Whether it is sex, drugs, eating, spending, or other form of acting out, there are overlapping ingredients. It is the specific behavior that adds the type of cross-compulsivity similar to the types of ingredients that define the type of cookies (chocolate vs oatmeal vs sugar vs peanut butter, and so on). Drugs create the flavor of drug addiction; sex means sexual compulsivity; eating means eating disorders and so on. This similarity helps explain why a person might address or “fix” one problem behavior, and simply switch to a different problem area. It also helps why addressing the underling cycle is important. Similar to the cookie, there are similar ingredients within the acting-out cycle. In my approach I use thoughts, feelings and high-risk situations as the ingredients to the acting out cycle. It is important to identify the basic ingredients to your acting out cycle versus only focusing on the problematic area. Otherwise, you risk simply changing the type of cookie you are making in your life.

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