Some years ago I read a book called Make a Life Not Just a Living written by Dr Ron Jenson.
The merits of the books are too numerous to list here. Suffice to say that if you haven’t yet read the book, you missed something wonderful. I trust you will repair the omission speedily. However, I digress.
Dr Jenson talks about writing full time. This naturally meant that he would be home all day, in his partially secluded study, hammering away at the keys. Not accustomed to find him always at hand, his wife got into the habit of walking in to discuss minor household issues all through the day.
If you are a writer, I can see you going up the wall.
To another person it is just a second of disturbance. To someone who is trying to clothe a nebulous and elusive thought in words, that just a second of distraction spells the difference between getting it down and losing it forever. And when you lose it forever you spontaneously go into your bear with a sore paw routine. In fact, bears with sore paws are amiable creatures compared to you when a just a second of someone’s inane disturbance has caused you to lose the most perfect thought forever.
Dr Jenson spoke to his wife about it. I will let you guess the tone and pitch of that speaking. The strategy failed. She kept doing what he had told her ordered her rudely not to.
Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.
~ Mark Twain
He spoke to her again and again, and AGAIN. No dice. Mrs Jenson could NOT understand what the song and dance was all about. Surely he could spare a few seconds? What was the big deal?
At last, Dr Jenson explained to her what happens when she just walks into his study with some minor query. If he had done this right in the beginning, he’d have been much happier because she got it instantly! Oh yes, I assure you she did. Instanter!
They decided that she would not disturb him for the minor shall we have mutton stew or lightly sautéed chicken breast for dinner kind of queries. But when a biggie like shall I shoot the gardener because he refuses to listen to reason turns up, she was surely welcome to spend a few minutes discussing the best firearm to use.
All good, yeah?
Not so fast!
Unfortunately, by then Dr Jenson had already got into a trigger mode. The moment the study door handle turned, he would be triggered into a towering temper. Instantly. Even before his wife had walked in or spoken a word about the issue that had brought her there. Tricky? Tricky is not a word I would use. I can imagine a spirited woman reacting to this kind of unreasonableness. Tricky hardly begins to cover it.
And before you turn up your nose in the air and tut- tut over Dr Jenson, let me assure you, you do it also. There are a score of instances in which you fall into a habitual response pattern. A particular sequence which is played out frequently, triggers you into responding in a certain way even before the whole event has played out. Though sometimes positive, these habitual responses are usually undesirable.
Everything you are used to, once done long enough, starts to seem natural, even though it might not be.
~ Julien Smith
Being a wise man, Dr Jenson realized that he was being irrational, arbitrary and downright stroppy. He was showing his wife that he resented her presence. He was showing her that he didn’t care for her concerns- or her feelings. Ergo, that he didn’t love her.
That was the very opposite of what he wanted to communicate to her. Dr Jenson, I am sure, was stumped. But he didn’t give up.
He realized he would need to change his habitual response pattern. Through repetition, he had got into the habit of flying off the handle when the door handle was turned. He would need to replace the automatically triggered response to something else if he was to stop hurting his beloved wife.
While intent is the seed of manifestation, action is the water that nourishes the seed. Your actions must reflect your goals in order to achieve true success.
~ Steve Maraboli
For many days then, so he writes in his book, he created an imaginary exercise. He imagined his wife walking in when he was engrossed in writing. Instantly, he would get very angry. He would quash his anger and speak to her as he wanted to speak to her… gently and lovingly. He kept replaying this scenario in his mind over and over. Slowly, he stopped getting triggered into anger by the turning of the door handle. Instead, he replaced anger with feelings of supportive love and concern because he knew how much the person turning the door handle meant to him.
He replaced an inappropriate reaction with one that was nurturing and loving. He did it by mentally- and in his imagination- rehearsing an alternative action. I suppose this is what Freud meant when he said:
Thought is Action in Rehearsal.
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Thought is Action in Rehearsal