Be the change that you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi
Developmentally we get conditioned via our families, society and the culture we are embedded in resulting in the creation of our personality that has unique patterns of behaviour, self-images and identifications. This developmental process may result in the creation of characteristics and ways of being, which can be viewed later in life as not fitting our ideal image. These qualities such as: getting angry too quickly, not being patient, judgemental or critical of self or others, being controlling or wanting to be perfect, uncaring, lazy – the list is exhaustive as each of us will have qualities we don’t like about ourselves.
So why is it so hard to change? When we see an aspect of ourselves that we don’t like it’s not as easy as switching off a light and turning on another. We are creatures of habit and these habitual patterns are structured in our being. It’s analogous to a vinyl record. Like the imprinted grooves on a record our patterns of behaviour are imprinted within us. As the stylus follows the grooves on a record and plays a particular song, similarly, a particular stimulus or trigger from our environment sets in motion conditioned patterns of behaviour. The self-deprecating saying “acting like a broken record” sums this up quite well.
The first port of call to start the process of changing a particular aspect/behaviour is to become aware of what is disagreeable. Invariably many of our reactions, behaviours are automatic and out of awareness, so the aim is to cultivate an observing self that is able to watch what is happening internally. Learning to foster this capacity of being mindfully present allows awareness to notice our conditioned response, which in turn permits the possibility of an alternate choice. For instance, if somebody becomes angry and their usual response is to shout at the other person or worst case scenario, lash out violently, the aim is to become aware of the anger which puts a little distance between that which is watching the anger and the emotion itself. As we watch the anger we are less identified with it, which generates a sense of more internal spaciousness, which is the fertile ground that allows choice to arise. In this case not act out the anger and go for walk. Obviously this is easier said than done, but like many things it takes practice, and to use the record analogy, by repeating a new behaviour this creates a new track in the record of our being.
May this day find you well
Counselling and Psychotherapy Team