January 20, 2015
Everyday we go about our lives thinking that we are consciously choosing our actions. In reality that couldn’t be any further than the truth. How many times do we find ourselves driving and realize that we arrived at our destination without any memory of how we got there? Or how often are we engaged in conversation and we are reacting to what we think the person said? Or we find ourselves in the same situation with the same frustration and the same outcomes, wondering why doesn’t this ever change?
In all these examples, what is present is the power of “habits”. Habits enable us to go through life with some level of efficiency. We don’t have to think about how to brush our teeth, we simply do it. In fact, we hardly give brushing our teeth a thought, it’s part of some morning routine.
Consider that it’s likely that we engage in relationships in the same manner – somewhat unconsciously reacting to whatever the individual might be saying or more likely how we interpret what the individual is saying. Our response is in the form of a “routine” without much regard to its impact or consequence.
This definitely impacts how we approach individuals, what we feel safe in sharing or if and how we ask for help. Habits also impact how we view fellow co-workers, our interest in working with them or more importantly our interest in developing their skills and/or capabilities. So often we have already decided what someone is capable of doing or accomplishing, and as result we reject the possibility that there could be a different outcome.
Our habits have a cognitive component; “the thought” and we believe if we could “think” differently perhaps we change the outcome. “Oh I will say positive statements to myself and then I will react differently”. But there is also a physical and emotional aspect that we tend to ignore that makes changing our perspective very difficult. I know for myself when I’m interacting with someone with whom I’ve had negative past experiences, there are definite physical sensations – a tightness in my chest and a contraction in my stomach making it very difficult to breathe or relax. Emotionally, I may feel resigned or perhaps resentful. With this in the background, the opportunity to see something differently is very difficult.
Instead of ignoring those physical sensations, try turning into them. Be curious about what you’re experiencing. Ask yourself, “what is my body trying to tell me?” or “What can I learn from this response?” “How are these physical sensations contributing to my emotional response? ” Staying present to the physical and emotional feelings might help us to stay present to the situation and open the door to seeing what’s happening with fresh eyes, not the “habitual” ones!