This Little PIG: The Problem Of Instant Gratification

The Problem Of Instant Gratification (PIG) is a term used to describe the process of choosing a small reward now, over a bigger reward later. It can be likened to choosing to have $1 dollar now, instead of waiting to rather have $10 tomorrow. On the other hand, is the avoidance of a small punishment now, at the cost of a larger punishment later – such as ignoring a debt, only to have it accumulate interest that will need to be paid at a later stage.


Triggering the PIG :

In terms of addiction recovery, the PIG is an ever-present danger. It is most apparent when a craving strikes. The hard work and progress made through recovery is the biggest reward. However, it can easily be overlooked when the urge to return to substance use compels us to satisfy an immediate craving. When we are experiencing a trigger, immediate gratification often appears to be much more desirable than healthier, delayed rewards.

Unfortunately, this just reinforces the PIG. Every time we give in to an urge, we strengthen the pattern, making it more difficult to resist future triggers. Every time we give in, the PIG grows stronger. But this has a flip side. 

Which is better- Instant Gratification or Delayed Gratification?

When evaluating whether instant gratification or delayed gratification is better, it is crucial to examine the advantages and disadvantages of each. Instant gratification provides immediate pleasure or satisfaction but often lacks long-term rewards. In contrast, delayed gratification involves enduring short-term discomfort for more significant long-term benefits. While instant gratification can offer immediate enjoyment, it may lead to lower achievement, higher debt, obesity, risky behavior, and substance abuse. Delayed gratification, although challenging in the short term, can result in greater rewards and fulfillment in the long run. The ability to delay gratification is a skill that can be learned and cultivated, leading to more significant achievements and personal growth. Ultimately, choosing between instant and delayed gratification depends on individual goals, values, and the willingness to prioritize long-term benefits over immediate pleasures.

Defeating the PIG :

Part of recovery is learning to deal with short term discomfort. Accepting that urges are temporary and that there are many techniques to control them will assist you to control your behaviour. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation or urge surfing are helpful methods to avoid the instant gratification trap. Just as giving in to cravings strengthens the relapse pattern, so does it become progressively easier to resist them once we start controlling them. When we learn to resist urges they become less frequent and less intense. 

It is also important to remember that changes to lifestyle and health are essential components of long term success. Abstinence without recovery will not correct addictive behaviors, and it is important to address the underlying issues that lead to substance abuse in the first place. This is where an addiction counsellor or recovery coach can make a marked difference in the recovery process. Addiction professionals can implement a number of techniques to help patients follow through with treatment plans. These may include Motivational Interviewing (MI), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT),  Person-Centered Therapy and Wellness Coaching. However you may choose to defeat the PIG, a clearly defined recovery plan provides the best opportunity for self-empowerment.