I had a great response to my post yesterday in the class, so I thought I’d share what I wrote back to one of my students who was talking about her hard times in the past week.
It sounds like prayer is one of the things you do to change the equation in your function box. You know, we all are awash in a sea of our own thoughts. The good and the bad things that happen in our day get automatically processed in our function boxes. We react with more good or bad thoughts as output. The output thoughts control the link to what we do about the events.
Interestingly, some people believe that we cannot control the flow of our thoughts. That doesn’t mean they believe we can’t change the output of the function box. Instead, they think that we can release stress as we step back from our thoughts and observe them.
When you do this, close your eyes and relax physically. Allow your thoughts to run freely without trying to do anything other than watch them like a movie. As you take on the role of observer, you lose responsibility for your thoughts. They pop up on their own.
When they show up, you just acknowledge each thought by saying to yourself, “I’m thinking _____.” Fill in the blank for each thought and let it move on. Another will pop up immediately after this. Just do the same thing–acknowledge it and let it move on.
Try it for five or ten minutes with no interruptions. See if it helps to clear out some of the cobwebs and gives you a greater ability to focus after your time in observation. See, also, if it helps you to change the way the equations in the function box work on the output.
After all, If you take a negative event and let your brain do what it does–think up every wild solution it can, but you don’t automatically accept its solutions, then you take control of the link between your function box output and your reaction to it. You can decide to act in a positive way even when the input was negative, and the function box delivers a negative output.
Choosing our reactions is one of the things that makes us different from animals. Even after all the processing of our brains, we can still choose to act in whatever way we want, as long as we take control of that link between function box output and action.
Ultimately, we have control of our actions, regardless of what happens to us. We are not confined to automatic reactions that don’t lead us to what we want to achieve.
I’ll give you an example of the difference between our capability to choose a reaction and what happens in the rest of the animal kingdom. Did you know that you can easily trap a fly once you know its behavior? Yes, a pesky little fly that you chase around the room for fifteen minutes with a flyswatter can be captured easily if you know what it is going to do.
You don’t have to be a fly mind-reader. There is no magic here. All you need is an understanding that flies are hard-wired to behave in a certain way. They have a function box too, but they can’t choose how they react to the output. They follow whatever the function box tells them to do. The link between function box input, function box output, and reaction is completely automatic. Knowing this gives you an advantage over the fly.
To test this, get a glass, fill it to the brim with water and soap suds. Watch the fly. When it lands on the ceiling, slowly (no sloshing!) lift the glass toward the fly and directly under it. When it senses danger, it will do the same thing every time. It will drop down about six inches before zooming off.
The fly has a great built-in survival mechanism. It reacts instantly to a threat by carrying out the drop and zoom behavior. In fact, this behavior is exactly why it continues to get away when you swat at it. The place you are aiming for is the place where the fly used to be.
Because the fly has a tiny brain running a very simple program, it reacts faster than you. It gets away more often than not, leading you around the room while you are wildly swinging the fly swatter and working up a sweat.
If, however, you simply raise the glass of sudsy water straight up beneath the fly, and if you get within that six inch range, the fly will drop straight down and get trapped in the suds. It will happen every time.
The fly population lacks the ability to adapt to this new threat. They can’t communicate with each other and say “Watch out for people with deadly glasses of soapy water!” They just use their built in programming and follow their simple rules.
As a human who knows about the link between function box output and reaction, as a human who knows that you can intervene in the link and block the automatic action, and as a human who now knows that doing so often enough allows you to reprogram the function box itself so that it begins producing different outputs . . . all this new knowledge allows you to control your behavior in the world, regardless of the input.
Here’s an example of how fly-like behavior in humans. Advertisers treat us as if we are flies. They know that we will react in a certain way to specific input, so they show us images of the stupid dad and the wise mom, they show us the caring father giving the keys of his safe, sensible car to his teenager, they show us life lived without worry after we take some medication, knowing that our function boxes will only process the positive message and will completely ignore all of the negative messages telling what the drug might do. They treat us this way because, as a group, we react to their messages and buy their products.
Statistically, human behaviors are fairly predictable. As individuals, though, we can take control of our reactions and adjust our behavior to match what we want instead of what we are programmed to do. We are people, not flies. We have the capability of control.