Focus: Changing your response
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV) So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
When you’re recovering from a lifetime of taking things at face value and reacting to negative circumstances on impulse—according to what seems right at the moment—learning alternative response methods may not come naturally. If your normal reaction to any kind of emotional challenge is to display radical behavior or slip into analyzing the whole thing from the viewpoint of a wounded soul—it’s probably time to think about that.
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So much of who we are and how we act comes from genetics and observation. My dad passed away before my youngest daughter was born. When I saw her profile in an ultrasound, it was like looking at an x-ray of my dad’s facial structure. The resemblance was stunning. You might expect that from a genetic standpoint. But, some even more interesting things happened after she was born. When she was asleep, I noticed she would sometimes raise one eyebrow. My dad frequently did the same thing when he was sleeping. There were other expressions of my daughter’s that were uncannily like my dad’s. These were things she didn’t and couldn’t have learned. They were subtle signs of a close relationship to a blood relative she had never known. She not only carried similarities in her bones—she showed a resemblance to him in her mannerisms, also.
As we examine the characteristics of our response mechanisms—undoubtedly there will be good and not good mannerisms that were learned or passed down through our generations. Some of the hard things you battle with—may not be entirely your fault—but, is that to say those things can’t or shouldn’t be changed? Are we to think we have no choice how we react, due to our ancestry? No, it just means you might have to work a little harder to overcome the negative tendencies that set you off in the wrong direction when certain buttons get pushed. In recovery, constant self-examination is extremely important. If you don’t want to keep going down the same sorry path—you have to take a different turn when circumstances are driving you toward a negative response. That negative response could be a pattern you have always resorted to when you’ve experienced rejection, disappointment, stress, or pressure. The response might not always be something ‘outward’—it could be ‘internal’. I’m not going to say one type of response is healthier than the other. They can both be destructive. The important thing is that you start to evaluate what causes your negative responses—whether those responses would be outward or internal.
Let’s look at some of the results of both kinds of response. First, let’s look at the ‘outward’, or the ‘seen’. Some people thrive on ‘acting out’ a negative response. They may not even realize that’s what is happening. In their mind, they are having a bad day, or whatever. So, they feel justified to ‘act it out’. The people around them end up either walking on tip-toe or being drawn into the downward spiral of the negative emotional display. This behavior is often a pattern that can intensify—if it’s not brought under control. Someone who ‘needs’ to act out a negative response—gets some kind of satisfaction from the experience. The problem is, as with any addiction—the behavior often becomes more exaggerated and extreme as time goes by, for them to experience satisfaction. This person is typically not secretive—if they are an addict. Part of why they ‘use’ is the reaction they get from the people around them who are concerned about their addiction. Even though this person displays their emotions outwardly, their response takes its toll internally, too.
In their own eyes, the person who has an ‘internal’, or ‘unseen’ negative response might think they are handling things in a better way than someone who ‘acts out’. If they have an addiction–they are good at keeping it hidden. They often abuse prescription drugs or ‘medicate’ themselves with a moderate, but consistent amount of alcohol. Often, their problem may go un-noticed by family and friends. They suffer silently.
Whichever has been your particular form of response to negative circumstances, you have to recognize the importance of knowing your tendencies and understand positive ways to cope with negative circumstances—if you’re trying to recover and you want to keep yourself clean. Outward and internal negative responses are both destructive. Neither of them improve without a determined effort. The effect of the outward and internal negative response patterns will eventually take a toll on a person’s general health. It is the will of God for the inner self of every person to be renewed day by day. He wants us to be focused on eternity and not be consumed by the things of this life that are temporary. God is able to help us learn new ways to manage our responses to negative circumstances, if we keep our mind and our praise focused on Him.
Declaration: I will find new strength by choosing to identify patterns that have kept me in bondage to depression and dependency. I will not use my ancestry as an excuse. My life will get better—not worse, as I keep my mind on God and offer Him praise.
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All NEW STRENGTH posts are Copyright by Christina Cook Lee 2012. Please request permission to re-post or re-blog.