Considering Wiring

Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Musings, Skills Building | 0 comments

Considering Wiring

I have been considering wiring lately. Not of the electrical sort, but of our personalities. Specifically, I’ve been wondering to what degree are we able to modify the ways in which we’re wired.

We all have a default manner through which we experience the world. Let’s call these thinking, feeling, behaving/body (I know some folks will cringe at my combining those two. I’m doing so here for simplicity.), and observing. The first three are a bent toward noticing what’s going on with you. The last – observing – is a tendency to be more aware of what is going on in one’s environment.  Input from each of these areas provides useful information. In my work with counseling clients, I help them investigate those typically outside of their awareness, in order to gather more information and thus possibly gain a better understanding.

Here’s an example. I have worked with many folks who are keenly aware of what is going on in their surroundings. They can recall in great detail all the “he said’s” and “she said’s” of a conversation. Listening to their account is like being a fly on the wall. And just like fly, I can “see” (imagine) the conversation that took place, but I have no clear idea what’s going on inside my client. All I can do is assume, guess, or ask. So I’ll ask my client such questions as, “What did you think when they said that?” “What (emotion) did you feel?” I’ll admit, I’m not as good about asking what was going on with their body at the time. Was their body relaxed or tense? Were they clenching their jaw, rolling their eyes, or kindly looking directly at the other person?

Again, while we all have a tendency to notice one of these areas more than others, each provides its own unique information. Thus, we can benefit from practicing increasing our awareness in these other areas, even if it’s after the fact.

Another example. I have worked with numerous folks for whom anger is an issue. Some have described it as being “red hot” or “explosive.” They feel like they’re going to burst and at times cannot contain the intensity. The best way to manage anger is to catch it when it’s small. A “cub” instead of a “lion.” We may start by identifying a recent situation in which they experienced intense anger.  I’ll walk them back through the events – very slowly – seeking to identify as many “links” as possible in the “chain” through which the anger developed.  I’ll ask them to identify thoughts, feelings, behaviors, as well as people present, their words and behaviors, and other contributing factors in the environment. Through this process, clients learn about their early, middle, and late warning signs, which they can use as cues that they need to disengage the anger-building process. Again, the sooner the better.

It takes intentional effort over time to develop greater awareness of the information provided through these other perspectives. It will take practice. It’s a worthy endeavor.

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