What do we do if an urge pushes us in one direction and our values pull us in another? We don't want to struggle with that urge because then it's hard to focus on effective action. So rather than try to resist, control, or suppress it, the aim is to make room for it, to give it enough time and space to expend all it's energy. And one marvelously useful technique for this is known as "urge surfing."
Have you ever sat on the beach and watched the waves? Just noticed them coming and going? A wave starts off small and builds gently. Then gradually it gathers speed and grows bigger. It continues to grow and move forward until it reaches a peak, known as a crest. Then, once the wave has crested, it gradually subsides. The same happens with urges in your body. They start off small and then steadily increase in size.
All too often we get into a struggle with our urges; that's why we talk of "resisting" them. In urge surfing, though, we don't try to resist our urges - we just give them space. If you give an ocean wave enough space, it will reach a crest and then harmlessly subside. But what happens if that wave encounters resistance? Ever seen a wave crash onto the beach or smash against the rocks? It's loud, messy, and potentially destructive.
So urge surfing is a simple but effective technique in which we treat our urges like waves and "surf" them until they dissipate. The term coined back in the 1980s by psychologists Alan Marlatt and Judith Gordon is part of their groundbreaking work with drug addiction.