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Lapse, Relapse, & Prolapse: The Value of Natural Learning for Self-Change

Changing unwanted behaviors is hard and even challenging for many. Think about the number of times you’ve said, I’m going to lose weight, quit smoking, start exercising, or quit drinking and the list goes on and on. Think of all the New Year resolutions that have been made, but failed to act on successfully!! We all have some type of unwanted behavior that we would like to change. When we commit to trying to change, often for many, we revert back to old ways and lapse in unwanted coping strategies. Polivy & Herman (2002) suggest that “most individuals who make an attempt to change their behavour in a certain direction (e.g. lose weight, reduce hypertension, stop smoking, etc.) will experience lapse that often leads to relapse.” There are three stages many go through when trying to change unwanted behavioural coping strategies:

  1. “Lapse” in thinking occurs when we return to old thinking patterns to cope with stress and lead us farther away from a desired goal of change. Thinking doesn’t always mean acting on thoughts, but distorted thoughts can lead to relapse if they are not addressed.

  2. “Relapse” occurs when we act on our lapsed distorted thoughts and actively return back to previous problematic coping behaviours in our lives. These problematic coping behaviours can lead to “collapsing” for some

  3. “Prolapse” is when we reflect on “relapse” and make a conscious effort to return back to our positive lifestyle changes.

How do we grow beyond the cycling of lapsing, relapsing, collapsing and prolapsing? There is a formula which research suggests helps. Alan Marlett suggests that two important areas need to focused on for ongoing change to be sustained.

  1. Lifestyle balance – Enhances a lifestyle that includes proper diet, exercise, healthy relationships, meaningful life interests all lead to positive addiction. Building a life around these lifestyle changes all lead to a meaningful sense of self and a life of fulfillment.

  2. Self Efficacy – It is vital for one to believe that they can “actually” make these positive changes. Self Efficacy support the belief in you to be able to change!

Here’s the formula:       Lifestyle Changes + Belief in oneself (Self Efficacy) = Positive Self Change

Make it happen!

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