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TRANSFORMING CRAVINGS AND ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS When we get curious about our cravings, we notice that our urges are made up of bodily sensations--we may sense tightness, for instance, or restlessness--and that these sensations come and go. These are transient pieces of experience that we can manage from moment to moment rather than getting sucked into an overwhelming craving that we feel we have to react to. If you smoke or stress-eat or check email compulsively, if you can't resist responding to texts when you're driving, see if you can tap into your natural capacity to bring your attention to the here and now and to your immediate sensations. Try to just be curiously aware of what's happening in your body and mind in that moment. This is an opportunity to either perpetuate a painful habit loop or step out of it. Suppose, for example, you feel that urge to check your email, though you know it's a distraction from your work and may prevent you from meeting a pending deadline. Pause and take a few minutes to reflect on what you're feeling. Anxious and avoidant attachments, on the other hand, hold us back to the degree that they do because anxious and avoidant attached individuals are preoccupied with their conflicted and hostile relationships, taking up precious space in their heads, interfering with their ability to learn and grow. It's not a surprise to learn that, for these individuals, despite living in an age where connecting is ubiquitous, forming harmonious and meaningful relationships is a lifelong struggle. Meet Jackie Jackie, a forty-five-year-old widow and mother of a college-age daughter, lives alone and has no friends to speak of. She works as an administrator for her local school district. I never had friends growing up, she told me one day in session. And I can say with certainty that I've never had a best friend. I like to believe this is because I was a shy child. But the truth is, that's only one part of the problem: I push people away because I'm so afraid of rejection. Growing up, Jackie never felt like she belonged anywhere. If one of the most popular and powerful sports leagues in the world is having trouble getting to grips with the privacy issues that self-quantification presents, what about the rest of us who don't have the power of renowned athletes to demand change? What happens to all that information about you and me that our devices are collecting around the clock?

Well, it doesn't just disappear. The companies who make your favorite gizmos are storing every byte on a server somewhere. What happens next is anyone's guess. On the positive side, such organizations are using information about your body and its performance to improve the algorithms that provide you with real-time advice on what to do and how to do it. But is that all that's happening with this most personal of information? According to an extensive December 2016 study by the Center for Digital Democracy, they're also looking to profit from your data. The report states that wearables are already being integrated into a growing Big Data digital health and marketing ecosystem, which is focused on gathering and monetizing personal and health data in order to influence consumer behavior [emphasis added]. These will be based on your health issues, the activities you partake in, and your location and could cover everything from drugs to more technology to fitness clothing and gear, and who knows what else. Consider whether your inbox will provide what you're looking for. Intellectually, of course, this reflection may be easy. You know you're looking for distraction and your inbox can provide that. But you know, too, that taking the time to check that inbox is going to increase the mounting pressure you're feeling at your job. In the past, you may have tried the just say no approach, trying to control your behavior cognitively. That requires action from your prefrontal cortex, which, as you'll remember, goes offline when you're stressed. So it's not going to work very well in this moment when you need it. Rationally you may know that an email check won't solve social anxiety, but your rational mind isn't in a position to help right now. See what happens if instead you go toward your feelings, rather than resisting them and trying to make them go away. Curiosity about our feelings can take us away from fear-based reactivity and into being. Instead, she mostly felt rejected, and she greatly feared that showing people her true self would be humiliating for her. In fact, Jackie had ample reason to feel this way.

Her father often teased her, telling her she was adopted. He even went so far as to show Jackie fake adoption papers to make her believe his cruel joke. After experiencing such hurtfulness from a parent, it's no wonder Jackie struggled with forming relationships both as a child and later as an adult. She carried within herself intense rage and powerful images from her past that caused her to treat everyone she met as if they were her father. In psychotherapy, this kind of reaction--redirecting feelings formed in childhood to a new person--is called transference. Jackie believed people would reject her just as her father had, so she behaved in ways that she thought would protect her. Emotionally, she was very guarded and tended to shut people out. Her guardedness and cautiousness were also reflected in her avoidant attachment style. The study's authors also predict that as wearables become more sophisticated, the number of threats to your privacy will increase and diversify: Biosensors will routinely be able to capture not only an individual's heart rate, body temperature, and movement, but also brain activity, moods, and emotions. These data can, in turn, be combined with personal information from other sources--including health-care providers and drug companies--raising such potential harms as discriminatory profiling, manipulative marketing, and security breaches. When you purchased your fitness tracker, you likely thought it would improve your health and give you some motivation to move more and eat better. That might be true to some extent, but if this report and others like it are correct, technology companies are using such promises as a Trojan horse. Once it's attached to your wrist, the true goal becomes clear: get as much of your data as possible, package it, and sell it for whatever the going rate is. Without so much as pausing to ask you if you're okay with that--which I'm certainly not. As the authors of the Center for Digital Democracy report insist, either these organizations need to agree to a code of ethics voluntarily and be monitored by an independent third party, or the government needs to step in with sweeping legislation. This would require the makers of fitness-tracking devices to stop selling consumer information and to start sharing openly what exactly they're planning to do with your data. There also need to be strict and enforceable restrictions on advertising and marketing, with safeguards in place to make sure companies aren't discriminating based on your demographics. If we want to protect our children, we must also demand that ads delivered to wearables are not targeting kids. When we discover that our cravings are made up of body experiences, we can follow them. Ask yourself: What am I feeling in my body?

Our cravings and our emotions are not just feelings or mental states, but include physical changes in our bodies. The more you can see that these are just body sensations, the more you can learn to ride them out. You may notice a restlessness, or tension, or speediness. If you just sit with that experience, you'll also see that bodily experiences come and go. Try to let your feelings percolate without trying to fix them. It's okay if judgment comes up--it's natural--but try not to follow it. For me, it helps to label it. I say to myself, I am feeling judgment, and then refocus on my breath. Jackie felt she had to hide her true self because she feared that I and others would end up rejecting her--or worse, humiliating her--by teasing her for having normal emotions such as uncertainty, fear, shame, sadness or for having the normal need to be admired, loved, and feel special. As a consequence of her early relationship with her father, Jackie often teased coworkers and family members to the point where her teasing crossed the line from merely playful to cruel. Because it was hard for Jackie to recognize this behavior in herself, she struggled to form and maintain relationships. She blamed others for being too thin-skinned when they got upset or angry with her disrespectful behaviors and comments. For Jackie, as for many people, social media's capacity to be a preliminary step toward experiencing belonging through new and healthy relationships can be transformative. Like any social gatherings, social media is a place that naturally facilitates connections between users based on shared interests, activities, or characteristics. Users can share and exchange information individually through online communities and networks like LinkedIn, Facearticle, and Twitter. Jackie's deficits in social skills made her feel awkward, out of place, and self-conscious when she was around other people. These feelings also prevented Jackie from making meaningful connections. I believed social media could offer her, from a comfortable distance, the opportunity to observe, learn, and model prosocial skills and healthy interactions that she hadn't learned for her parents during her childhood. Where Do I Sign? When you go to a doctor's office or hospital, many of the forms you fill out concern the privacy of your health data and your permission to let that provider use it.

In addition to filling out a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) form every year, you also give your consent for whatever procedure or test you're going to have done that day. There are many flaws in our health-care system, but at least there's some regulatory oversight and mandatory procedures regarding data sharing, privacy, and protection. Not so in the world of fitness technology. While you imply that you're giving a company permission to monitor you and collect your biometrics just by purchasing their devices, you never have the chance to sign any kind of permission form or waiver. So they're gathering information on your biology around the clock for as long as you use their products. If wearables for kids take off--and the brightly colored, fun designs now being introduced implies that they will--your children could conceivably submit to an entire lifetime's worth of monitoring. Surely this should require the signature of a parent or guardian on some kind of consent form, just like when you take your kids to the doctor's office? The same goes for your data and mine. Cravings take on different forms over time. Mindfulness helps you not get sucked into your cravings. That practice alone--and, particularly, in the beginning--is probably not going to stop you from your habitual behaviors. But what it will do is help you get more in tune with your body and slowly help reduce your cravings and develop more nourishing ways of managing those cravings. It's important to show yourself some compassion during this process. I remind myself that whatever I'm going through is just human, that we all experience emotion, and that we all have difficulty staying in the present moment. It also helps to maintain my sense of humor: There goes my monkey brain again, but now I can come back to breathing. WHEN YOUR CRAVING IS FOR FOOD If you call yourself an emotional eater, have you considered the possibility that your out-of-control drive to eat, even (or especially) when dieting, is actually a biological response to restriction itself? That far from some perverse mind game, it's part of a hormonal cascade generated to get your body more of the calories it craves? Observing and thereby taking in positive digital interactions--what psychologists refer to as internalizations--gave Jackie ideas and options that she could apply to social situations both online and off. But it's essential to use social media for therapeutic use in healthy ways.