Finding the Courage to Change

In the last post, I wrote that it’s often hardest to be at our best when it matters most.


The good news, as we saw, is that we can change the old responses that come up during stress.


But, it’s easier to make such changes if you believe that you are just changing some response pattern, not your entire personality.


Otherwise, we can feel too discouraged or too guilty.


The key point is to understand is that we often regress to outdated responses during demanding situations, when it matters most.


Rather than sorting through our best options, we perform this behavior automatically.


This is why we often cannot recall, let alone apply, new insights when it most counts.


In fact, this is the main reason that many of us do not believe that anyone can really change themselves and therefore see little value in trying.


This difficulty is not a fault in our brains – it’s just an automatic and instant switch into super-fast habits for the purpose of emergency reactions.


Terrifying emergencies leave us no time to think, and we are wired not to do so.


The wrinkle is that having no time for thinking also means we don’t have any time to ask ourselves if this is physical danger or social stress.


In danger, speed is so important that it’s best to respond instantly, despite the considerable risk of doing the wrong thing.


In contrast, during interpersonal stress, it is almost always better to think through what we are going to do before we do it.


Our brains react the same in both types of situations.


We just do what we learned to do in a situation that was either similar or at least familiar.


No time for thinking also means that people are unaware of this move into old, predictable, and automatic patterns.


Afterwards, we may judge ourselves as less capable than we thought we were.


Others, too, may become impatient with us if they don’t understand this.


The distressed behavior seems unpredictable and erratic to others, although it is really the opposite: the responses are rigid and predictable.


Of course, if they happen to fit the situation, they seem ingenious.


If they don’t, they seem misplaced, maybe stupid.


In either case, they reflect whatever we learned to do rather than our personality.


This is equally true whether the response is angry or fearful, avoiding problems or dwelling on them, hiding in distractions/addictions or overworking.


In other words, it’s not about who you really are as much as where you were when you learned the reactions.


They may be troublesome now, but they worked before.


Knowing this motivates change.


It gives us the strength to know that we can be much more than we have been.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2016 at 9:55 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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