World Emotional Literacy League
World Emotional Literacy League

LEARNING POSITIVE BEHAVIOR RESPONSES

Abstract
 

This paper focuses on the processes used for learning new and positive behavior responses.  It develops a process for creating new and positive behavior patterns to deal with the events and issues that occur in your life.  It examines and develops a process that can be used to create positive emotional responses when dealing with any event.  It also develops and presents a process that can be used to change our emotional history so that we can now feel differently in the future about events that have occurred in the past.

 

A crucial part of dealing with negative emotions is learning a new way to respond when you feel those emotions.

Our own thinking about a situation creates our negative emotions.  Since you created your thinking, you can be in control of your response to it.  Knowing this will help you to gain control of your negative responses.  You can choose your behavior so that you respond to negative emotion inducing situations in a new, more effective way.  Realizing that your negative response is your own creation makes it easier for you to change the way you respond.

 

Changing a behavior pattern comes from training.  All skills and professions teach this.  However, most people have never learned how to avoid negative feelings, or how to change their behavior when they do occur. 

 

You can make your behavior what you want it to be, rather than what others want it to be, or what you were told that it should be.  If you don’t choose your own behavior, you are probably not going to be happy with it.  Learn to choose the behavior that you want, rather than what you think will make your friends or family happy.

 

Most of us want to be true to our own belief systems.  We want to respond the way we believe we should, rather than how we feel at the moment.  You can learn to follow your positive impulses and avoid your negative ones in responding to situations.  

 

You probably grew up learning how to respond the way your parents and teachers told you that you should respond.  You have learned those lessons from others as you were growing up, but you can now make positive choices about the beliefs you want to live your life by.

 

If you often don’t like how you feel about what you are doing or saying, pay attention and try to determine why that is happening.  Determine what changes you can make in your responses so that you will no longer be feeling negative about the actions you take.

 

You can learn to be in control and choose the behavior you desire.  If you whine about something, remember that you have chosen that behavior. Work at seeing how self-defeating it is to whine about things.  Keep looking for the times you complain about things.  Refuse to accept that behavior from yourself. Change your complaining attitude to one of observing and evaluating what is going on.  The thing you change by complaining is how you feel, and how others feel about you.  When you complain you make yourself feel bad.  You also make everyone else feel bad.  Also, you will generally get a less positive response from others when you complain.

 

Once you make a choice, work to make it the right choice.  If you find that it is not the right choice, you can change to a new and better choice.

 

How We Treat Others - Assertive Behavior

 

The behavior we display toward another will affect their emotional charge, which will affect how they respond to us.  This will, in turn, change our emotional reaction because when they do not feel threatened by how we are to them they respond more positively to us.  In this way a previously tense situation can be totally diffused.

 

The opposite of aggression is not passivity.  To not respond in a negative way does not mean not to respond at all.  You don’t need to be passive to avoid feeling upset or angry.  Learn to be assertive, and be able to state your position clearly and strongly.  You can learn to do this from your rational mind, rather than emotionally.  You do not have to act out of your negative emotions to make your point, or to do what you think is the right thing.  Being passive and not asserting yourself is a sure way to invite upset feelings.  Being positive and asserting yourself will get the job done without anyone becoming upset.

 

When you realize that you have a habitual way of doing something that often produces negative emotions in others, pay attention to this.  It is an ineffective habit you will want to change. You need to develop a new way of responding.  The best way will be a positive way.  If you have habits that produce negative emotions in yourself or others that you find difficult to break consider trying some new and exciting interest to hold your attention until the old negative habit is eliminated.  This is like chewing a stick of gum instead of having that cigarette when you want to quit smoking.

 

Learn to avoid behaviors that cause you to become upset.  Just as alcoholics learn that they must stay away from alcohol completely if they don’t want to destroy their life, make sure to avoid the behaviors that cause you to get upset.  For example, give yourself plenty of time to get to an appointment, if you know that being late will make you upset. 

 

Addictions come about because we have developed negative emotions that prevent us from feeling the positive emotions that we desire to have in our life.  When we partake of some mood altering substance or activity we suppress the negative emotions that are blocking us from experiencing our positive emotions. Then we feel good because we are able to more fully experience the positive emotions.  This feels so good that even though we know the drug or act is destructive we do it because we so desperately want to feel good again. The best way out of this situation is to remove the negative emotions on our own without mood altering assistance.  When we do this we no longer need the drug and getting rid of our addition becomes no more difficult than just breaking the bad habit we have developed to go along with it.  When we remove our negative masks we have the ability to take control of our own actions and do only the things we decide we want to do.

 

One way to replace old behavior is to visualize the new behavior that you want to put in its place.  Picture the new behavior.  See yourself doing it until it becomes easy.  For example, rather than losing your temper when someone is angry with you, why don’t you practice over and over in your mind admitting that you have made a careless mistake and will do better next time.   Practicing responding in this way will result in your being prepared the next time this issue comes up.  This is a bit like a tennis player practicing their stroke over and over in their mind.

 

When we make a mistake we often try to cover up or give an excuse, perhaps because we don‘t want others to think less of us.  Actually they think poorly of us when they feel we are just offering an excuse and appreciate us when we own up to our mistakes.  People appreciate your much more when they feel that you are being authentic.   I have found that just owning up to my mistakes has been much more effective than trying to deny them.  Denial generally creates distrust by the other party.  When we stand in our own truth others respect us for this and it improves our relationship with them.  Just the opposite of what many of us think. When we can’t stand in our own truth, we don’t think well of ourselves either.

Angry behavior is not an effective way to deal with problems.  It is just going to make your life more difficult and unpleasant.  It is time to realize that angry behavior is only the way you have learned to respond, and that you can change your behavior any time you wish. 

 

Changing How We Process Incoming Information

 

It is not the triggering event itself that produces the upset; it is what goes through the person’s mind when prompted by the triggering thought.

 

Our emotions result from our perceptions, and our perceptions result from our observations plus our preconditioning.  Our preconditioning includes our belief system, the way we are trained to respond, and all of the presently existing memories we hold.  Understanding this process and how it works helps us to be able to make changes.

 

We can train ourselves to respond to potentially negative emotion inducing events in a different way by learning to replace our old habit patterns with new habit patterns, and by learning to process information differently.

 

Once we choose to respond in a different way, we can update our belief system and our way of looking at things to be in accord with our new understanding of how we want to be.

When we do this we will get new results to the same old events.  We will be different because we think differently than we did before. And when we think differently we act differently because we choose different responses.

 

One of the keys to eradicating negative-emotion based responses is changing our thought processes so that we make reasoned rather than emotional choices when events happen.

By this I mean that you can learn to look at events as something needing your attention instead of something threatening or affirming (bad or good) before you start deciding how to respond.

 

If you keep the question of whether the event is dangerous or threatening open, then you can process the information with your rational thought processes rather than with your irrational emotional processes. 

 

Don’t worry about your safety this new method will get more effective responses in a quicker time than just reacting from your emotions.  Our ancestors started reacting this negative way before reasoning was very well developed and many of us have not yet learned how to do it a better way.

 

One helpful way to change this process within yourself is to recognize and appreciate your skills as a problem solver.  For example to do this, you can say to yourself, “I am a problem solver and I welcome the opportunity to solve a problem.  I love solving problems and coming up with the answer.  That is what I like best about myself.”  With this new belief you will be receptive to processing new events through your rational thinking rather than your emotions.  Even if you still have some old memory which tells you this is bad or dangerous you will be able to overcome the initial urge and be able to avoid being caught up in your old emotional response process.  Even if you are not totally successful at first you will have at least greatly reduced both the intensity and the effect of the emotional response.  Learning to feel positive about solving problems will release much of the negative charge from any situation which you would have previously responded to based on your emotional directive.  When you practice this strategy, you will learn to come up with the most effective response, rather than the one you may feel like acting on at the moment.  When you get good at this the most effective response will become the one that feels right to you and it will be a positive one.

 

If you find difficulty avoiding the emotional content of a message try asking yourself, “In the greater scheme of life, how important is this anyway?”

 

This will help to adjust your perspective on an issue and make it easier for you to avoid an emotional response.  When we respond from our emotions we tend to dramatize, and things then seem more important to us at the moment than they really are.  Asking this question allows you to step back and have a more detached view.

 

Whenever possible, give yourself time to think before you respond.  Unless somebody is going to get hurt, you can delay making any decisions when you are experiencing negative feelings. You can create a new habit of delaying your response.  Learn to count to ten; or to “sleep on it” when you are having a hard time finding just the right response to a potential anger-producing situation.  Make sure that the response seems right to you.  Develop a technique that will allow you time to think before you respond.  Once you learn to program the desired response pattern in your mind, you will be able to be in control of the choices that you make.  Your behavior will be aligned with your preferred choice.  You will not have to say.  “Why did I say that?” or “Why didn’t I think of that?”

 

When you learn to come up with the right response but are not feeling good about it, don’t be satisfied that you have the problem solved.  If you are still feeing a negative feeling even though you know you are doing the right thing it is a sign that you still have conflicts in your belief system.  Pay attention! Examine yourself to find where this thinking is coming from.  Find the underlying belief or beliefs that you have that create this feeling and eliminate it/them or align it/them with the rest of your belief system. 

 

Create a habit of giving yourself time to think before you respond.  Decide never to make an immediate response when you are feeling a negative emotion. If it must be dealt with immediately count to ten before you respond. If you can leave it until later, make a date with yourself to deal with it later.

When you are able to process negatively charged information through your reasoning before responding you will set off a positive chain reaction in your mind that goes like this:  You will choose a more effective positive, un-angry (or un-fearful) behavior.  Your changed, positive behavior will in turn have a positive effect on other people, which will cause them to respond more favorably to you.  Their more positive treatment of you will create a more positive emotional response by you because you will not feel as threatened, and on and on.  Because your initial response was a positive one, the entire chain of emotional and behavioral events will become positive.

 

Keep working until you no longer experience a negative feeling when the old event or thought occurs.

 

Changing your Emotional History

 

Once we are aware of how to change the way we process incoming information, change our beliefs, change our biases (ways of looking at things), we are still left with one major problem.  That is our memories.  Our memories are all of the things that happened to us in our life. Every memory comes with a judgment attached to it.

 

The problem we have is that the judgment attached to a memory affects how we look at new events when they occur.  For example, we may have a relative or friend who was killed in an avalanche.  We may then transfer that to a fear of snow, or a distrust of weather forecasters.  Also, we may have been cheated by someone and still feel angry whenever we even hear that person’s name. 

 

We can actually revisit those old memories that are upsetting to us, and change the way we feel and think about them today.  We can pay attention to old memories and change the ones that still have negative feelings attached so that they no longer do.  I call this changing our emotional history.

 

In dealing with existing positive and negative charges on our memories our goal is to remove or diminish negative emotional charges and develop and intensify as many positive charges as possible.  You are capable of feeling good about anything you want to. 

 

We can apply our new belief system and way of looking at things directly to each old negative memory that we still hold.  We use the new beliefs we have accepted and reprogram what happened in the past either as no longer negative or as totally forgiven.  We will then have a new feeling about the old memory when we next revisit it.

 

You can use the concept that we previously discussed of learning to be a problem solver to help you eliminate or change old negative memories.  Open up an old memory with this idea in mind.  Think about how you could have handled it differently to achieve a positive result.  Then realize that you now have a positive answer to that situation when and if it arises again.  Feel good about yourself.  Decide that you no longer need to hold on to the old negative feeling it generated.  You can now handle this without feeling negative, you can just release the negative thought and let it go, and feel good about yourself for the lesson you have learned.

 

If you reach the point where you have been able to open all of your negative memories and reprogram them so that they no longer elicit negative feelings, you will no longer feel fear or anger.  You will have changed your thinking, and your life, because you no longer think and act the same.

 

You may find memories with which it is extremely difficult for you to change the attached feelings.  You may have to keep working on removing the negative charge over and over again.  Each time you still feel the negative emotion when an issue relating to that memory comes up, do the work again.  As you go along you will find additional memories that have been hidden away for a long time.  You will then need to work on them to remove the negative charge.  For example, perhaps you will unearth a hidden belief containing the memory of an old acquaintance from childhood that you are still angry with because he or she shamed you in some way.  Perhaps the shame is still affecting how you feel about people in general, and is therefore also affecting the negative feelings relating to other memories and how you respond in general.  As new things keep coming up, you will also find that you have to go back into areas you have already made changes in and make additional changes.

 

You will also find that in some cases you will have to repeat the process several times before you can access a memory and no longer feel a negative charge.  In some cases you may think the negative charge is gone, and then you find it coming back later.  This is normal.  Do not be too concerned.  Just keep making changes wherever and whenever you find negative emotions still persisting.

 

What is already in your mind (memory) when prompted by the negative trigger is what is at the root of your feeling.  By reprogramming our memories so that they are no longer negative, we are using our new belief system and our new way of perceiving events to review our past and to change how we feel about it.  As we engage in this process, we find that the trigger no longer has the same effect.  Without the negative charge on our memories, we no longer employ the beliefs and perceptions that created our negative feelings in the first place.

 

Now that you know how to evaluate and process incoming information, you can open your existing beliefs and change the charge attached to them from negative to positive, to match your new belief system.  As you engage in this practice, you will find that removing negative charges from old memories and new events can be the key to an existence that is free of the negative emotions that make life so difficult for others.

An example of using this process to examine a negatively charged memory

 

Open the belief in your mind that contains: “How I feel when someone breaks a promise to me.”  What kind of charge do you have on this belief? Typically it will be a negative charge.  Figure out why you feel negatively and come up with some ways to change your thinking so that you no longer attach a negative charge to this particular belief.  For example, if waiting for a friend who is always late is one of the instances which you must learn to deal with, then when “someone breaks a promise and doesn't show up on time,” come up with options to deal with this event.  You can decide to either go without your friend or wait for him.  If you choose to wait for him, prepare yourself for his being late by bringing along a book or deciding to people-watch, or any other event you will enjoy, that will occupy your time.  Remind yourself that you have made this choice, fully aware that your friend will likely be late. If you get angry, you need to realize that you are responsible for your anger because you made the choice to wait for a friend whom you know is always late.

 

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