Changing Responses

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I often write about mind over matter in my blogs and how it is that we are not controlled by outside situations or stimuli. Furthermore, while we may have conditioned or automatic responses, those responses are not necessarily written in stone (neurons to be more precise rather than metaphorical) for a lifetime. Responses can change.

An example that comes to mind for me is bullying. I would be willing to wager that most educators (and perhaps most humans) respond with negative thoughts and feelings to bully behavior when we see or hear it. We get upset. We believe one child needs to be punished and taught a lesson. We believe we need to defend another child’s honor and maybe even safety. In my opinion, these are understandable reactions, and I doubt if they are easy to change for some folks.

I had this reaction for many years as a young educator. I did not control it. It just happened largely based on my beliefs (that bullying is not good). My moods also seemed to have an effect on my response. In a low mood, I was very quick to anger. In a better mood, I still didn’t like to see bullying (who would?), but I could react with more composure.

After I learned more about bully behavior, I learned to perceive bullying as a system. The bully and victim aren’t the only ones involved. I also learned that the students labeled bullies for their behavior tend to have worse outcomes than those labeled as victims. Furthermore, many bullies have been bullied by others at some point in their lives.

After my understanding of bully behavior changed, I began to react differently. Rather than feeling pity, horror, and anger, I began to feel compassion more and more often. Today, more often than not, when I see bully behavior, I tend to feel compassionate toward both children. Rather than jumping to protect and punish, I tend to respond a little more slowly and thoughtfully (as long as safety isn’t an immediate issue). I try to consider what I can do to help both children.

I do not feel like I control this response. It just happens similar to the way my pity, horror, and anger just happened prior to my belief change. Although I receive light and sound from the outside, I experience the act of bullying from my thoughts to the outside world, from the inside to the outside. This is why the experience, including the reaction, is termed inside-out. It’s just a description. If someone has a better term, I’d love to hear it. The gist of it is this: While our sensory systems and beliefs tend to create consistent responses, the responses are capable of changing over time.

Notice, no reaction is wrong. Reactions are what they are, and every reaction you have is perfectly aligned/created based on your sensory systems and thought-feeling connections. The main point of understanding the inside-out nature of our experience is that you do not have to believe you are automatically controlled by the outside world. You aren’t. So when you understand that fact, you begin to gain freedom from the outside world, and you can more reliably act from other possibilities, such as desire and choice.

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