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Nicole Marie Sorkin

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The Power to Stop, by: Karen Bentley
Thursday, September 13, 2012  8:58:00 AM

by Nicole Marie Sorkin



Self-Help
The Power to Stop is a holistic and developmental (incremental) program that implements focused exercises for the mind, heart, spirit, and body in order to retrain someone to deal with and stop unwanted behavior.

The Power to Stop is a holistic and developmental (incremental) program that implements focused exercises for the mind, heart, spirit, and body in order to retrain someone to deal with and stop unwanted behavior. There is a religious aspect to it but it is a general spirituality designed to disengage the ego which frees a person from wasting time on self-indulgence, selfishness, and self-deprecating energy. This ego-free self is an enlightened self and although this sounds like pop psychology it is quite logical and completely applicable. In fact, the program is based on practical applications and exercises and the reasoning for these exercises and the holistic framework is not just based on inspiring quotes and motivational prose. Granted, those things are included and are surely useful, but for the cynic out there, the common sense examples and the analogies are what make the holistic argument convincing.

For example, one of Bentley's mantras is to be persistent with your intention to stop (X behavior) because that is the only way you'll learn. That is, this is the only way to retrain yourself.  It sounds like trying to teach an unruly kid how to calm down.  Well, this is exactly the case. Bentley refers to the Supernanny who teaches parents to deal with the unruly child rather than give in.  Of course, the children only respond to persistent discipline; a parent acting like a parent, not like a buddy.  Just as a parent can't run away from his/her children, a person can't run away from, say, an alcohol problem. This seemingly casual analogy (and others like it) puts the problem into perspective. You can't negotiate with an undisciplined child just as you can't negotiate with an undisciplined behavior.

Bentley gives some thoughtful tough love in the chapter on whether addiction is a disease or an unwillingness to change. Bentley doesn't overtly choose one side or another. But she does make an interesting argument that an addiction is not necessarily a disease because it is not the cause of itself.  In fact, the "disease" such as a cocaine addiction, is actually a symptom of some underlying cause, psychological or otherwise.  Also, labeling it a disease makes it easier for the "diseased" to absolve him or herself of responsibility for it. That being said, even if it is technically a disease, the culture of disease-labeling begets self-pity and weak resolve.
 
Above all, one of the most useful pieces of advice in the book is also quite practical.  In order to learn how to play an instrument, you must practice. In order to stop some behavior, you must practice stopping.  The focus of the book's activities and advice is to focus on the stopping itself.  Of course, Bentley also advocates avoiding people and situations which are more conducive to "said behavior" and she thoroughly deals with the emotional and physical problematic effects of "the stopping." This includes avoiding anger and guilt, spiritually forgiveness of others and yourself (not just verbal apologies). It also includes meditation and physical exercise which slowly build over time.  If this seems daunting, it isn't. The first of the 30 days includes 7 pages of reading, 3 minutes of mediation, and 10 minutes of walking. These activities decrease tension and focus the person on mental and physical rejuvenation.  Ego-bashing aside, these exercises and "the stopping" itself are about self improvement and self-love. The new and improved "self" will therefore be less ego-based and more spiritually or humanistically based.
 

Bentley's focus on the doing, "the stopping," is what makes this a convincing program.  Practice does not make perfect; only purposeful practice makes perfect. To live by example, not just in thoughts and in words, but also in deeds is to live with complete purpose. Near the end of the 30 days, Bentley encourages the reader to act as if he or she were a teacher, to teach by example.  She further encourages writing about the experience of undergoing this program. This is to create a focused, working exercise but also to teach the "stopper" how to articulate the how, when, and why the behavior emerged and the how, when, and why the stopping occurred. 

Pacific Book Review

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