Modifications of Behavior

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

Dear Readers:


Answers to the questions in today’s column can be supplemented with excerpts from my book “Welcome Home. A Book About Overcoming Addictions” (p. 81 for Answer 1; p. 82 for Answer 2). For more information visit my Web site at

”Overspending – How do I Stop?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

I make a decent income but I wish I could curb my spending. I leave the house with a shopping list and always buy more than I need. I’m not delinquent in my bills, it’s just that I can never stick to my list. Why Not?

Too Much Plastic

A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Too Much:

Your question suggests that you have not been taught how to be conservative. This reminds me of the saying “put some away for a rainy day.” I find myself wondering whether you have faced many rainy days. Perhaps not.

Compulsive behaviors are often driven by a need for instant gratification that keeps people trying to satisfy a hunger that they cannot quite identify. Such a hunger is not necessarily for food or shelter — it is typically an emotional hunger that some people attempt to fulfill by indulging in frivolous external commodities, continually trying to satisfy an inner emotional need.

”Affirmations – Do They Help?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

Last month I took a self-esteem workshop and the presenter recommended doing affirmations. I have been doing them but they don’t seem to help much with my stress. Am I missing something?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Affirmed:

Affirmations are an attempt to appeal to the subconscious mind that has previously been programmed to believe otherwise. A mere thought or announcement of change is not likely to appeal to the pre-programmed subconscious. If an affirmation can bypass the factor of the conscious mind that critiques information, this is sometimes called the critical factor, then the unconscious is likely to yield to a replacement behavior.

Many people have used tape recordings to introduce an affirmation to the subconscious. This can be especially effective when napping or sleeping. To implement this, the affirmation should be recorded, and it could sound something like this — “When my recorder turns on to offer me an affirmation I will continue to sleep. The noise of the recorder turning on will induce a deeper sleep.” At this point on the tape, the affirmation should be verbalized. For example, “Starting tomorrow, I will restrict my intake of food, especially snacks. I will reduce my intake of sweets between meals and at mealtimes I will eat a reasonable portion and stop eating when I am satisfied.”

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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