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Between stimulus and response ... ...
December 9, 2002
4:18 pm
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Between stimulus and response, one has the freedom to choose. -Stephen Covey

But how many of us can really make the connection; or for that matter clearly identify either the stimulus or the retriggered emotional memory from which the response derives its energy.

It seems to me that the old adage of 'Counting to ten before speaking' is based upon the presumption that we already have developed the abovementioned abilities and can clearly see alternate 'choices'.

But do we really have the 'freedom to choose' without the knowledge, insights and realizations of the above kind?

December 10, 2002
12:48 pm
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Being free to choose doesn't mean we will make good choices. It is about our ability to choose a path, make a decision, or choose to do nothing.
Stimuli....Pavlov's theory that the dog salivates in response to the meat?
Innate reaction to hunger. Fight or Flight is an elementary reaction without thought. For me, we can choose to respond however we wish, be it without thought or after much thought.

December 11, 2002
5:28 pm
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mj

You said, "For me, we can choose to respond however we wish, be it without thought or after much thought."

Yes ... but the number of times that I have found myself saying ... "I had no other choice but to ..." and believing it at the time!

If someone sticks a gun to my head and says "Gimme your money" the chances are that even now I would hand over my money without considering that I have any other choice whatsoever but to do so. In the calm of hindsight in a safe environment I could easily see that I had two choices; namely to comply or not to comply.

What I am suggesting is that, in highly threatening circumstances, the decision making process is hidden from consciousness. The 'only choice' is presented to conscious as a 'fait accomplie'. The conscious 'freedom to choose' is largely overridden in the unconscious by the magnitude of the emotional 'survival' response.

Similarly when considering a lesser threat, if the 'boss' says 'jump' then most of us ask 'how high'! Few consciously consider their 'freedom to choose' under such circumstances.

For me that 'freedom to choose' largly depends upon my insights into my unconscious processes at the time of dealing with the threat. But I'm sure Steven Covey knows this very well and is provoking us into looking into ourselves to discover the existence of this highly dependent 'freedom'.

December 12, 2002
9:59 am
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I agree with you, that in panicky situations, I can't think, just react. There are lots of times that after something occurs, I say, why didn't I do this or why didn't I say that. I usually am in a state of shock and my brain does shut off temporarily. You have a very good point!

December 12, 2002
4:41 pm
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Mj

Some people live their whole lives 'panicing'.

My father was one such a person. He was constantly 'on the edge'. He had Buckley's chance of ever seeing any intervening stage of interpreting perceptions between the stimulus and the response that he gave. It was usually just 'WHACK'!

Irrational, unfocussed and unaddressed fear is the enemy - I think it is an evil corroding thread throughout our lives, at either the national or the personal level.

What do you think?

December 12, 2002
5:16 pm
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No idea...I think the stimuli of the suicide thread has me panicing.

December 13, 2002
4:44 pm
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mj.

Phew! Being human ain't easy at times, is it! But I guess being a wild duck ain't that much fun either!

December 13, 2002
5:33 pm
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You made me laugh!!! Thanks for the sense of humor. Do you believe that laughter is Good Medicine?

December 14, 2002
5:25 pm
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mj.

Yes... provided we are laughing with others at ourselves.

I'm of the understanding that laughter is the victorious primate's primitive victory cry as he beats his chest.

A laughing cry of victory over our own selves when we are not taking ourselves too seriously, is in my opinion a healthy thing. Of course the severity and consequences of our 'mistake' have some bearing on how seriously we take our 'mistakes'.

However, feeling victorious and superior over the failings of another human being, animal or thing, and lifting our spirits up at the expense of another by laughing at them is not healthy at all - or so I believe at this point in time.

I'm not impressed with 'slapstick' humor or laughing at the antics of a retarded 'fool' of the type played by Jerry Lewis or Norman Wisdom.

However I like the subtle and not so subtle humor often found in sit coms such as 'Becker', wherein I get to see the funny side of myself and my humanity. Then I can have a good old belly laugh at myself together with the rest of the unseen laughing audience.

In summary, I guess I think healthy or unhealthy laughter depends a lot upon our motives for perceiving something as being funny - not so much as judging whether laughing at the event itself as being good or bad. Our perceptions and our interpretations of those perceptions are inextricably interwoven with our intentions and motivations.

Having had the good fortune to spend a few good years in the military, I learnt how to handle, in a productive way, ridicule publically directed at my expense in order to lift someone's low self-esteem.

I realized that if I could see the humor in my actions and laugh at myself, I soon found that I became very popular with all the troops and many wanted to be around me, Somehow it made them feel safe!!!!

I soon learned to capitalize on every opportunity offered to me. So... when someone tried to take the 'mickey' out of me, I immediately looked to see how I could expand and exaggerate my mistakes of failings that were the basis for the 'attack'. I soon found that the troops were laughing with me not at me. The 'perp' soon found himself on the periphery of the laughing group not at the centre as he so desired. To my amazement, I soon had the 'perps' wanting to be my friend.

Today, I still employ this method of dealing with being the 'butt' of someone's jokes. As president of an incorporated dancing club, it has never failed me when under 'attack' in the public eye. The numbers in club membership have skyrocked due in no small part to this approach to myself and fostering the others initiated laughter at my own foibles.

It is a simple secret but it works!!! And it is an endearing quality to nurture. But it ain't always easy - especially when one's 'buttons' are being pushed!!

February 1, 2003
4:50 am
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Tez,

"For me that 'freedom to choose' largly depends upon my insights into my unconscious processes at the time of dealing with the threat."

That's right. Expanding one's awareness of possibilities is the aim of self-growth work. Once we become conscious of our reactions and their reasons, we can choose to react differently.

Great thread ! (I'm new here)

I also agree with your way to put up with put-downs. That's what I have started to do lately too: to exaggerate whatever is being put down in me.

Love
Mafi

February 1, 2003
7:12 pm
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Mafi.

Hi and welcome. I thought this thread had died.

I've found great success in stealings the 'thunder' of the person trying to put me down by exaggerating the focal point of the put down.

The aim of the 'putdown' is about making the victim suffer publicly. If on the contrary, the victim is seen to enjoy the 'putdown' then two things happen. The victim's standing goes up in the eyes of the 'audience' and the perpetrator is deprived of the 'audiences' attention and thus his/her reward. In fact the perpetrator generally stops the attacks and looks for another not so skillful victim.

Interesting, eh! I learnt this in the armed services where it stood me in good stead.

February 2, 2003
11:37 am
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An example from last week:

Coworker: "I smell smoke. YOU have probably been smoking !" (in front of others)

Me (calmly and politely): "Yes, I was smoking a Cuban cigar just now and I left it lit, can't remember where."

I think that by my exaggerating the "misdeed" I'm being accused of, I'm actually giving back and magnifying the ridicule of his put-down and that's what makes him feel ashamed and he won't try again. Also, by showing I don't mind being shown in a bad light and I actually accentuate it, I show them how ineffective their put down is. They're not counting on others looking down upon me but they're counting on MY feeling embarrassed enough that I will make myself smaller in the others' eyes.

This woman asked the other day:
"C'mon, don't YOU have better things to think about?" and I say "nope". She was so taken by surprise, I'm sure she didn't enjoy it. She'll think twice next time before she puts me down. They thrive on your defending your image. When you actually make your image look "worse", they are instantly neutralized. I learned this by observing my boss, who gets put down a lot because he's a highly successful professional.

February 5, 2003
3:27 pm
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Mafi.

Ah... yes! It's amazing isn't it.

Another reward is that by doing this we desensitize our emotional selves to criticizm as well. We quickly learn to take ourselves and our failings less seriously - emotionally speaking. This is not to say that we dismiss or deny our failings. It is just that we don't get all emotionally aroused, 'self-shaming', or self-judgmental as much as before we practiced this technique. At least this is my experience.

I'm flat out teaching maths at the moment. I have a class of society dropouts who are seeking entry into a technical institute where I work as a casual teacher. They have somehow fallen through the net school system and are just about illiterate in both maths and English. To cover their own gross inabilities to understand even the most basic concepts like (-1 + -3 = -4) they make 'half smart' remarks all the time. These guys average out at about 20 years of age! They know nothing, but think they know everything. They fool around and refuse to work. So... I give them 16 exams in 8 days. That way they are reminded every few hours of the consequences of their actions. My superiors always put subtle pressure upon me to maximize the pass rate and minimize the attrition rate by any means fair our foul. Of course they would never come right out and admit this. They want bums on seats for subsequent courses - and thus funding! I'm in a vice of my own making - no one elses.

I just eat, sleep and prepare for class and try my best to teach the mentally challenged something about Engineering Maths A!!! It is like teaching a gorilla to knit a cashmere sweater. 🙂

So you see I am in a wonderful position to learn about my cognitions, my beliefs, my emotions and the interactions between all three. I have plenty of stimuli for practicing what I preach. 🙂 Yeeeooow! 2 days to go and then freedom!!!!! Whooooopie!

February 6, 2003
8:22 am
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Tez,

"we desensitize our emotional selves to criticizm as well."

This is SO true for me too ! It's so healing for me to do this !

Your job is one of the most challenging in the respects you mention. I know because I have worked in the same. I was in therapy back then, but a very bad one for me, it wasn't helping me in any sense, and having a lot of emotional problems myself, I had to quit the job. Your job is a great challenge at the stage you are now. I hope you are getting emotional support to deal with it (from the school or other sources).

February 7, 2003
9:10 pm
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Mafi.

Thanks for your posting.

The support that I do get is from the writings of the Chan(Zen) masters.

This week I have resorted to a few simple techniques to prevent me from 'losing it' altogether.

One technique is to focus on my breathe and thinking, "I am breathing in", and "Now I'm breathing out." I'm actually doing this whilst listening to myself talk to the class and seeing myself write on the white board. In the background I can hear the 'half smart remarks' dissappear into the past like the resonance of the temple bell. The energy of the accoustic sound waves dissipate harmlessly into the atmosphere. I realise only my mind can sustain them as mental formations if I am so masochistic as to chose to do so. Thoughts like, "While this smart arse is fooling around, he is distracting and misleading other immature class members. They will all fail the tests and I will wear the blame from my superiors" keep surfacing. I keep letting these thoughts go. But still my mind manufactures and projects fearful images of the future that threaten to become reality unless I 'attack' what I erroneously perceive as the 'external cause'.

Another technique that I used this week is to ask my self what is this for 300 years from now? How important is it?

Another technique that I used this week was asking myself the question "Who is this 'self' that is being 'attacked' by this suffering human being? Where is this 'self' to be found?" All I could find was a collection of molecules that have patterns.

My thoughts somehow aid in producing and interpreting these patterns. At the same time my thoughts themselves a product of these patterns. I can therein find neither a 'self' nor any potential or sustainable 'damage'.

However, I cannot claim that this past week was a picnic. At times I was clinging for 'grim death' to my techniques and regular meditation periods.

February 8, 2003
6:34 am
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Tez,

Those sound like very good tecniques for separating from the trigger and choosing the response. That separating is so important !

One thing that helps me is to bring to awareness the fact that I'm not helplessly tied to this situation as I was when I was a child. That I have more choices now and that I can choose to distance myself from a situation or a person.

February 8, 2003
4:23 pm
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mafi.

You said, "...I can choose to distance myself from a situation or a person... "

Yes... I am doing a lot more of that nowadays too. However, I do not like giving in to fear and just running away. I prefer, if at all possible to deal internally with the fear first and then examine the situation without the 'emotional baggage' of the past interfering with a well thought out decision regarding a course of action rather than a 'blind' reaction.

I guess that this dealing with the emotional arousal first enables me to have the freedom of choice, so desirable, between the stimuli and my externalized response.

However, in my experience, I see that there is an emotional trigger threshold above which a perceived 'threat' can trigger a full blown, and almost uncontrolled anger response. In me that threshold seems to vary according to the 'background level' of unfocussed and unfounded anxiety. Unless I constantly monitor this background or base level, I am liable to be triggered to such an extent that in some sense I 'become' the anger. All cognitions seem to vanish and I come out with all guns blazing. That ain't pretty. 🙂

An interesting point that I have observed in myself is that these uncontrolled outbursts never seems to happen in the presence of a very powerful father figures such as a cops - strange that, eh. 🙂

In regard to the presence of authority figures, it seems that my fear of authority and the implied repercussions prevents an instantaneous 'attack' from me in response to some other more powerful trigger source yet possessing a less powerful retaliation capability in response to my emotional outburst.

It is almost as if the emotional self is capable of weighing up situations very quickly without the direct aid of cognitions. Or perhaps I am discounting the abilities of the cognitive self to unconsciously act upon the emotional centres within a few milliseconds. Perhaps unconscious cognitions or thought processes have more control over the emotions than I have given them credit for or I am able to observe.

Perhaps data from independent emotional trigger sources just summate in some way within the emotional centre (the amygdala) independent of our cognitions.

Interesting, don't you think?

February 9, 2003
8:49 pm
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Hi Tez,
Just wanted to say Hi....

February 10, 2003
5:34 am
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Hi Tez,

I was puzzled by exactly what you're talking about for many years. I had done tons of self-growth work and advanced an incredible amount in everything, yet the "volcano" that came bursting up at times, remained intact. I was very frustrated by this and started thinking there was no solution for that, long therapies hadn't worked at all, when I learned that those outbursts of emotion result from thought too, but thought that is very deeply ingrained and much more powerful than the thinking I'm doing consciously, and that's why it creates stronger emotions in me that override any new thinking and new resulting emotions. Those thoughts (usually called "underlying beliefs") can be changed. What worked for me was doing "Inner Critic" work. Today I can identify the thoughts that cause the uncontrollable emotions that seemed to be coming out of nowhere, and I can calm myself. I have related this very briefly here, there is a lot to say about this, and there is wonderful info on the web about Inner Critic work and Underlying beliefs if you are interested.

At present, I am working on the balance between me and the other person. Up until recently I couldn't even VISUALIZE myself in a relationship with another human being in which I wasn't used for the other's wishes. As a result of more self-growth work, I have been able to visualize an equal relationship in my mind in the last month, and that's made a whole change in me and brought me a lot of hope. I hope that I will some day be able to have that kind of healthy relationship in real life too.

Love,
Mafi

February 10, 2003
6:40 pm
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Mafi.

I thoroughly understand and agree with everything that you have written.

I see the 'Inner Critic' as the memory scripts of our interpretations of the critical parental messages that we received as children so long ago.

I believe that we formed core 'emotional memories' and 'contextual beliefs' about the nature of the world as being somewhere on the spectrum between totally hostile or a totally supportive place to live.

Further, I think that we formed core 'emotional memories' and 'cognitive beliefs' about ourselves in relation to this world.

I suspect that all or the above interact, mostly below the level of consciousness, tho produce the resultant thoughts and feelings of which we are consciously aware.

I was interested to read what LeDoux had to say about unconscious emotional arousals. Because they are unconscious, we do not 'feel' them. Thus I was able to clearly see that 'feelings' are my conscious awareness of emotional arousals and not the emotions themselves. The two are very separate phenomena.

The more that I meditate, reflect and contemplate my inner being in relation to the outer world the more that I see that the borderline between the two is really a construct of my mind. Thus my 'reality' consists largly if not entirely of mental formations and objects that exist in my mind only and not 'out there'.

This is not to deny the existence of 'out there'. It is just to observe what truly is 'out there', I suspect that I would have to remove all the effects of the previous preconditioning of my mind.

Further, I suspect that such words as 'I', 'me', 'my' and 'mine' would disappear from my vocabulary. Perhaps all words would disappear entirely. Perhaps that state of mind is 'enlightenment' in the extreme - the proverbial 'vision' of the mystics - the 'unlimited consciousness' mentioned in the sutras.

An interesting vision, is it not?

February 10, 2003
6:44 pm
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mj.

G'day ... 'ow ya goin'?

February 11, 2003
12:36 pm
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Yes, I agree with you. The more I deal with my inner reality and see how my emotions and thoughts are more related to my inner view of the world than to outside triggers, the less I feel the need to speak. Explaining, convincing, showing things to others, advising, etc. all become very unnecessary. And setting boundaries becomes something that can be done inside without the need to even say it outloud. The deeper we go into ourselves, the stronger the bond with the universe and all its forms, including all humans. And it's not about ME anymore, because deep inside we're all one...

February 11, 2003
4:25 pm
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mafi.

ditto, ditto!!

February 12, 2003
10:51 am
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Hi Tez and mafi,
I hope to understand...someday what you are speaking of. 🙂

February 13, 2003
1:48 pm
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(((MJ)))

(((Tez)))

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