I used to think that I reacted to situations one by one, and responded depending on a variety of factors. But, the more I’ve paid attention, the more I see how untrue this is.
What I actually have is a series of default settings, sort of automatic presets that kick in before I consciously think about them. It’s not that I want it this way and it often creates problems for me, prompting me to ask, “how did it get this way?”
For years, I would try to answer this and other questions aimed at explaining ‘why’? Most of these explorations failed and I found myself spending excessive amounts of time analyzing things, only to realize I couldn’t move forward, if I remained stuck in the past.
To me, it’s another version of the same dilemma, when applied to the future. I can plan and speculate all day long, but the truth is I can’t predict or experience the future before it arrives, so why try?
Okay, so what’s left?
How about accepting that my default settings exist, then see if they serve me somehow. Do they make it easier for me to cope with my life, without creating unnecessary problems? If so, perhaps I’m better off because of them, so why not keep them.
But if they don’t serve me in some way, maybe it’s time to consciously choose to either release them or to substitute new defaults for them, ones that improve my life.
But I wonder, how is this to be done?
One way comes to mind. It requires a little bit of work, but I suspect it’s well worth the time.
It involves an imaginary bell that you set to ‘ding’ every time one of your default settings gets triggered. Images often help, so imagine one of those small bells that dings when you enter a store. Pushing the door open makes it swing forward and back and ring, alerting the staff to your presence. Using this imagery and connecting it with your awareness provides an alert to you.
Here’s how it works for me.
One of my defaults is impatience. It shows up a lot, way more than I would like. If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you already know one thing that sets it off, slow drivers. But, rest assured, there are many others; toasters that take forever to toast (only to burn it when I’m not watching), playing the game UNO, waiting for the shower to get hot enough to step under and long customer lines, to name a few.
So, let’s take long customer lines as an example.
Awareness is the key and the sooner I realize I’ve been triggered, the quicker I can adjust. And, the faster I can pull out my prepared speech. What speech, you might ask?
It’s really more a set of questions and it goes something like this (with my likely answers in parentheses).
“You see what’s happening, right? (yes) You know this situation always creates upsetting feelings for you, correct? (yes) Do you really want or need to continue experiencing this? (no) So, what other response could you choose? (ummm) Okay, I’ll help you. You could release it, telling yourself it’s not worth getting upset about. (I’ve tried that without success) Or, you could choose a new reaction (like?). You could look around your environment for something interesting, you could talk to someone, you could sing to yourself, you could close your eyes and breathe or any of a hundred other choices (do you think that would work, really?). There is one way to find out- give it a try the next time the bell dings. You can’t know if it’s worth it until you try. So, next time, listen for the ding and make a wiser choice.
Seems like a good idea to me, and maybe my impatience will get a chance to rest, opening me to new possibilities. That’s the plan.
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