Developing YOUR Response-Abilities
Feeding Wolves Inside and Out
Making good choices is about self-control, or discipline, that is based on your self-awareness. (Recall Course 2: Self-Awareness, wherein you observed yourself as a body, emotional being, and mind, a personality, character etc…). You can only discipline yourself, keep (relative) order and (relative) clarity within you to make the most appropriate choices for yourself, by knowing which aspects of your human-ness need disciplining– whether that means more or less of “this”and more or less of “that” all of which depends on the situation in that here and now. It may mean choosing more compassion for yourself or another and less punishment; it may mean choosing more tough love and pushing and less laziness, etc… All the ways we self-manage or personally discipline or parent ourselves involve choice-making, whether based on gut feeling (human body), instinct (animal body) and reasoning (human mind). If we know this about our human nature, ourselves, then does it not stand to reason that we have more conscious self-awareness and more conscious control over our responses?
You already did the Choice Audit without the explanations above. Now, in this practice, watch yourself choose for a day or so or randomly when you care to, and reflect on the processes involved in your choosing. Notice the ways that YOU make decisions and choose, and then reflect on this in writing. See what you can learn (or self-realize) about choices and choice-making that you were unaware of before. Maybe you could write about how the world — others, society, humanity, looks different, now that you have gained more insight about human choice and response-ability and yourself as a human chooser.
The Wise Sage
(The guy who always knows exactly what to choose)
Making mindful choices rather than choices that are too-rapidly reactive or those that are unconscious or less-conscious habits is what we want to learn more about to become wiser. This is what you did in the React & Respond practice. Doesn’t the wise sage in every Disney movie remain balanced and insightful rather than crazed and disorderly? And did you ever notice and wonder why Gandalf or Rafiki or insert your “wise sage character here” don’t offer the hero answers but a path to follow or a riddle that challenges the hero to figure out for himself? Only the hero can make his own choices otherwise he isn’t free and isn’t a hero! He just becomes a robot who is told what to do and executes it or a pawn to some higher authority.
ALL OR NOTHING?
As individuals, we have to answer to ourselves, “figure it out for ourselves” ultimately, so we have to know which wolves within us to pay attention to more than others, which ones to feed (here and now) and which one’s to starve (here and now). What makes this self-discipline process challenging is the mistaken idea that we (our body’s sensations and feelings and our mind and its thoughts) are EITHER-OR, THAT IS, ALL good or ALL bad or ALL right or ALL wrong, ALL the time. Pathology comes from such dichotomous thinking and behavior that is based on it. Such one-sidedness is psychological inflexibility, but it’s not entirely your fault if you find yourself in this camp, as this sort of thinker/actor.
As humans, we are prone to either-or/high/low, less/more, polarity and disunity because we are vulnerable to danger, pain and death all the time, so our physiology has evolved to look for safety first– to survive— and only later, after we are safe, to reflect for a moment on our reactions and instincts to adjust for what is a better response (for ourselves and others) or the best decision. A rational decision is ‘delayed’ whereas reactions are, well, reactionary, that is a bit more arbitrary (not entirely because our bodies/nervous system can be trusted to know stuff) without more rational thinking. Our human brain, the thinking/reasoning/ rational brain labels our visceral experience, storing it in memory (the body does this too, “muscle memory”) so that “the next time” such experience or situations happen “for” us, we are better able to respond, not merely react or get stuck in constant hyper-reactivity and hyper-vigilance. The system is designed for balance. It’s not ALL body or ALL thinking brain– it’s both/they are one/united/integrated.
Imbalance and Dis-Integration and Dis-unity
Think about it, if you ONLY worked out one side of your body, say the right, and ignored the left, imbalance results and the organism as a whole is weaker, not working optimally, etc.. What if you ONLY paid attention to one child and ignored another as a father or mother, would not the family system be imbalanced? One child would likely thrive while the other much less. What if you only listened to your mind and less so to the body or vice versa? Do you see where I am going with this?
*Paying attention to the unit, as a whole, via observation of its parts, without having strong opinions about what you BELIEVE about your parts and whole, is the curriculum to know yourself for wisdom and wellness.
Observe Yourself as a Consumer
So, your responsibility as an individual is to know yourself, know your values, and consider how your values promote the wellness of both yourself and the larger human group of which you are a part. Obviously, other people’s choices affect you too. Incidental to your self-awareness study and discovery of your unique humanity will likely show you that the human group, throughout evolutionary history, has shaped you to be who you are (as an individual!). Nature and nurture are equally powerful forces on shaping your human identity. So, in order to REALLY know yourself, it’s a good idea to see how your influences influence how you understand yourself. AS well, it’s a good idea to see how your choices are impacting the wisdom and wellness of the “the group.”
REFLECT AND WRITE
Notice what you consume for a day.
What is the nature and quality of the ideas, food, other people’s energy, and so on that you “take in” during this day?
Watch how each of these things impacts your body, mind, heart/spirit. This ought to give you plenty to observe, reflect on, and write about.
Take the time to Notice: Are you “consuming” by choice?
Are you mindlessly allowing what’s “out there” to penetrate into your organism?
Said another way, What influences might be seeping into your mind and body without your conscious awareness?
Write about your immediate environment and people in your life who influence you, that is, how you think, feel, and act. This ought to give you plenty to observe, reflect on, and write about. (see above)
Brainstorm why and how you may need to or will make some important choices about influences and “intake” and consumption that promote your wellness.
How are your choices impacting the group? (the group can be the smaller groups of which you are a part– your family, or community groups, your gym or yoga studio, your classroom, your romantic partner, your university, society, the global community).
NOTICING YOUR WOLVES INSIDE AND OUT
You are not a helpless, powerless victim of an impersonal universe that is out to get you. You have a choice about how you can respond to any given situation externally and internally; your choice is what you own. You have personal power. That power is the power to choose to respond to all of your experiences.
You have a choice about how you think about your experiences. You have a choice about how you interpret reality. How you label and respond to your emotions. We don’t always get the choice about thoughts and feelings happening– seemingly, sometimes they come out of thin air or left field or from the ether. This is human. But, you can choose how to respond to them–you can believe what your mind think, or not! And guess what? Your mind isn’t always right about what it labels or interprets, so you ought to check with others you can trust. We have lots of biases and blindsides (all part of being human– not your fault!) and can only know ourselves to a relatively certain degree! If more than a few people confirm your ideas about yourself or many negate them, you should take that into serious consideration.
After watching yourself in various situations and throughout your days, weeks, your life, you can choose to allow yourself to be carried away with unhelpful emotional reactivity or feed thoughts and feelings that support your wellness. This is the trial and error process. But if you are ignoring the wolves, trying to suppress them or so busy you don’t notice or take the time to watch yourself and own those wolves and manage them, then you are responsible for being devoured by them. Awareness and observation is key as is valuing balance rather than extremes or dichotomy.
Can you identify the wolves within you vying for most of your attention?
Write about your wolves. What are they like, in detail.
Write about how you attempt to manage your wolves. Describe the processes you use.
Guess about which wolves might you may be feeding unconsciously?
You can decide to pay attention to and get to know your wolves. You can choose to take your emotions and point them toward productive and useful ends (in service of your healthy values?) to remedy or relieve suffering, or you can use them to make things (including yourself) worse.
It’s up to you which wolves you feed. It’s your choice.
As far as the wolves on the external landscape go, you can choose your influences. You can choose to put yourself in better situations, away from temptation, away from people who do not share your values, and set yourself up for optimal wellness and success. You can choose to surround yourself with people and things that are life sustaining and healthy rather than sick, threatening, dangerous, and bad for you. Put yourself in a proper environment where you can thrive and give yourself the best chances for flourishing as uniquely you. But don’t alienate yourself from “the other side” or disconnect from them completely, as we need each other, whether we like it or not, to be our best and most actualized selves within our global and local communities.