“Why can’t I quit when I know alcohol is ruining my life?” This is the million-dollar question that rocks the minds of so many daily drinkers. Many theories have attempted to provide an answer. But I have another theory.
I believe the real answer lies in how the human brain is wired, specifically in the human need to resolve internal conflicts, or what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. In other words, if you’re having trouble quitting drinking, not only is there nothing wrong with you, but quite the opposite, your brain is working as designed.
Cognitive Dissonance: Internal Conflict Leading to Psychological Discomfort
Cognitive dissonance is when a person’s attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors are inconsistent. As humans, we strive for inner psychological coherence, and inner conflict can cause a significant amount of psychological discomfort in a person.
For example, if we drink every day and at the same time think that alcohol is bad for our health and that we should stop drinking, we experience cognitive dissonance. In these situations, your beliefs and actions are not aligned with each other, and after each heavy drinking session you experience psychological discomfort every time due to the conflict between your actions and beliefs.
Anyone experiencing such internal conflicts, or cognitive dissonance, may be motivated to resolve internal conflicts and reduce discomfort by one of three methods:
1. Change one or more beliefs, behaviors, or attitudes.
The first option is to change one or more of your conflicting attitudes, actions, or beliefs. For example, you can simply align your behavior with your beliefs by quitting drinking. But things can get complicated quickly when it comes to alcohol, as people often have conflicting beliefs about alcohol. may believe that is the source of happiness. Now you are faced with a painful dilemma. When you drink, your behavior contradicts your belief that alcohol is bad for your health, but when you don’t drink, your behavior contradicts your belief that alcohol makes you happy. Whether or not your actions inevitably contradict one of your beliefs.
This unsolvable dilemma is why it’s so hard to quit drinking. The person is caught between conflicting beliefs and nothing can restore their inner coherence. In a futile attempt to regain their inner peace, they go back and forth between the only two options they know – stop, drink, stop, repeat.
2. undermine one or more beliefs or attitudes;
When the first option doesn’t work, people tend to move to the second option, making one or more beliefs or attitudes less important. For example, they try to undermine the belief that “alcohol is bad for your health” with arguments such as “live in the moment”, “one drink doesn’t hurt”, and “everyone drinks”. There is a possibility. bad. “
This approach has worked for some time. But sooner or later, you may find that the overwhelming evidence of the harm alcohol does to your life no longer allows you to undermine such beliefs.
3. Acquire new information to overcome discordant beliefs.
We are left with one last option. It is the acquisition of new information that surpasses dissonant beliefs. This option allows you to ask about your beliefs about alcohol, such as “alcohol makes me happy”. They may gather new information on alcohol and happiness and test whether unlimited alcohol consumption actually leads to true happiness.
At first glance, this option may seem very intimidating. After all, many have had beliefs about alcohol since childhood.Many have seen their families drinking alcohol and having a good time. Others spend their college days getting drunk with friends at parties. The belief that “alcohol makes me happy” can feel like an unshakeable fact. There is always
Challenging your beliefs about alcohol may seem intimidating, but it offers a way to restore inner peace in your relationship with alcohol. May you find peace, joy and true freedom on your journey.
If you’re looking to change your relationship with alcohol, we’ve created this free 30-day toolkit to help you drink less.