Exercising freedom of choice – ‘Lag Time’ management

[This post is very much for my patients as an aide de memoir, it may not make much sense to others.]

Three steps sit behind the process of changing our unwanted unconscious behaviours. These are patterned responses that are triggered by certain people or certain situations. Your partner makes a negative comment that is similar to the way your father did and click, you shut down. Someone ignores you the way you felt ignored by the kid at school you really wanted to like you, click you feel dismissed and alone. After we come to understand these ‘dynamics’ we can then go through a three step process to free ourselves from these patterned responses.

  1. First, identify the unconscious motivation behind the unwanted behaviour – the programming that makes us automatically behave in a given way. For example, when I’m criticised in a certain way I shut down/get angry.
  2. Practice mindfulness at the risk times (make the most of those ‘difficult’ people who are regulars in your life and typically trigger you – you can’t practice on those who flit in unexpectedly) to decrease your ‘Lag Time’ to Zero. Your Lag Time is the time between when you behave in this patterned, problematic way and when you realise that your unconscious motivation was triggered into play. It may start at a few days before you realise what happened, but with practice, over time you can get it down to a few minutes (damn they triggered me again) then a few seconds – now you can visit step 3.
  3. Only after completing steps one and two can you now CHOOSE what you do next. For this you need to have alternative healthier behaviours (that you have rehearsed) to choose from.

Remember without completing steps 1. and 2. none of us can exercise our ‘freedom of choice’. That’s right, you can’t change if you don’t know what your programming is and when it’s triggered.