We’re often told to trust our instincts and go with our gut, but what happens when our instincts are terrible and our gut feelings just plain suck? Is it possible to override bad instincts to create better ones? Psychologist Nando Pelusi believes that it is.Pelusi explains his obsession with sugar as a child and what he did to overcome it:
I once loved sugar. I grew up a pudgy kid, “husky,” according to some, but I knew I was chubby and I hated it. My parents came from the Old World and thought that fat equalled health. Then something happened. After learning of the health disadvantages of too much sugar, I convinced myself that sugar was an enemy, not a sweet friend. By looking repeatedly at the evidence, I changed my reaction to it. My newfound belief in sugar’s disadvantages powerfully affected my taste sensations. I now find it unpleasantly sweet. I tell myself, “this stuff will rot my teeth and send my insulin skyward,” thereby overriding one of the strongest instincts around—the craving for fat and sugar.
While I never had an addiction to soda or alcohol, I was concerned about consuming both in large quantities and was able to scare myself away from developing a problem with either. On one hand I do believe this method can be effective, but I worry about the implications. If you scare yourself out of one vice, what happens to your desire to indulge? If you’re not able to indulge in anything, will you become unhappy? To some extent, I believe we need some vices or we can’t fully appreciate life. While we can probably use knowledge to frighten ourselves out of acting on them, will that ultimately make use happier?
What do you think? Have you been able to convince yourself to make better choices by understanding the facts? And did it improve your life, ultimately, or make things more difficult? Share your experiences in the comments.
The “Instinct” Instinct [Psychology Today]