Hey Elderly Aunt, how can I stop myself from binge watching everything?

Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 

Hey Elderly Aunt, I think I binge watch too much. I find myself so hooked on shows, that I keep watching them much later than I think I should even before having to work early in the morning. How can I impose some self-discipline and shut off the TV?

elderly_auntRTlogoFirst, kudos for acknowledging you have a problem that seems to confound your best efforts to solve. If you will allow the Elderly Aunt to paraphrase Step One of the famous (and mysteriously effective, in her opinion) Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: You have admitted to yourself and the Elderly Aunt that you are powerless over your TV binging and that your life has become unmanageable.

Let us begin trudging the happy road to your recovery by considering what it is to be powerless over some dysfunctional behavior — not to feelpowerless, mind you, but to actually bewithout the power to change it.

If the Elderly Aunt absolutely had to be marooned on a desert island with only one book, that book would Flannery O’Connor’s collected letters, The Habit of Being. The reasons for this have much to do with the Elderly Aunt’s checkered past, and little to do with binge-watching TV. She does, however, suggest that a meditation upon the book’s title might be a good place to begin addressing your problem.

The word habitmeans “an acquiredbehaviorpatternregularlyfolloweduntilit hasbecomealmostinvoluntary.” The word beingis defined as “the fact of existing.” Taken together they refer to a behavior that has gone from something we doto a part of who we are. And in the Elderly Aunt’s own experience, how comfortable she feels about her “habits of being” is pretty much how comfortable she feels about herself.

As you, dear reader, are admittedly disturbed by your habit of TV binging, the Elderly Aunt’s heart goes out to you. Luckily for you, though, she has dealt with a few of her own questionable “habits of being,” and during the process, worked out a few handy-dandy tips for how to change her ways. Please rest assured, dear reader, that if the Elderly Aunt can change her unsatisfactory ways by following these instructions, then so can you.

(Note: She has modified the language of the following instructions to specifically address the “habit of TV binging.” But they can easily be modified to address any questionable habits of being.)

  1. Forget about willpower. In the Elderly Aunts opinion, willpower just might be the biggest psychological boondoggle of all times. Quitting any bad habit is a long process, not just a matter of gritting your teeth.
  2. As soon as you finish reading this, decide how much TV you can watch in the evening and still feel happy with yourself, and then watch only that amount.
  3. Do not cheat! Ever!
  4. Do not bargain with your resolution by telling yourself it’s okay to watch extra TV tonight because you’ll watch less tomorrow. Or because you’ve had a hard day and have earned the right to regress behaviorally and suck your psychological thumb.
  5. Make a list of other ways to fill your evenings (a written list,mind you!). Keep that list with you, and every day decide how you will fill your evening.
  6. Accept that you are dealing with not just your “habit of TV binging” but your habit of feeling bad about yourself becauseyou binge. These are not the same. Any behavioral change, even for the better, is inherently uncomfortable. Do not expect to re-jigger your evening behavior without some real psychological discomfort.
  7. Focus on controlling your habit of binging one evening at a time. (Unless you want to keep things really simple, channel your inner John Prine and blow up your TV.)

That’s it.

The Elderly Aunt has every confidence in your ability to change your trifling ways, dear reader. So much confidence in fact, that she very much wanted to send you off on your road to recovery with the immortal encouragement  of Tony Little ringing in your ears. Her editor, however—who has unenlightened tastes—­forbad it on the grounds that Tony Little is just too annoying.

Now back to the Elderly Aunt being marooned on a desert island…

Should her particular desert island have a palm tree, a solar panel, and wifi—and should she be washed up upon it bookless but with her laptop—she wonders, dear reader, if you (or any of her dear readers) would mind posting the titles of your favorite binge-worthy shows in the comment section below.

For emergency use only, naturally.

Pay no attention to the Elderly Aunt’s crossed fingers.

The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday.  And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”

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