Comment: The task suggested seems simple, yet it is profoundly powerful in initiating change. The other-than-conscious body-mind wants to be healthy, and will do so if allowed!
MacQuarrie Email Program #11 — The Checkbox of Change
The activity of the last email, the John James Game Plan, is very useful for exploring patterns, but in general, is less useful for creating change — this is simply because other-than-conscious actions are difficult to change.
This activity, the Checkbox of Change, expands your awareness and options.
Consider any simple behavior that you would like to change. Take a piece of paper and write about it. Be very specific. Identify how you will know when you are doing the behavior: what is the body sensation or sensory information that you will use to recognize the behavior.
For this activity, you will also need to have some way of briefly recording day-to-day events as they occur. As you think about this task, consider how you can achieve it. My suggestions are:
- carry a small notebook and pen or pencil, or
- get an app such as Dragon Dictation on your smart phone.
For starters, pick a behaviour that has little emotional significance for you. I’ll use my desire to go to the bathroom as an example. Everybody has this need, and everybody knows when they need to do so — but how do they know when. For me, I get a brief (but distinct) sensation of fullness low in my abdomen, just where my bladder lies. As soon as I get that sensation, I say to myself “Oh, where is the bathroom,” and then I go to the bathroom to urinate.
For this current example, what I would want to monitor is the specific brief sensation low in my abdomen. When I get that sensation (the checkmark sensation), I take the notebook out of my pocket, find my pen/pencil, and write down a simple checkmark (nothing more). I then put the notebook and pen/pencil back in my pocket, and go looking for the bathroom. (Alternatively, I take out my smart phone, activate Dragon Dictation, and speak “Checkmark” or some such phrase. Then I put my smart phone away, and seek the bathroom.)
A simple task (the Checkbox of Change) — that is all I do, but it interrupts the pattern briefly to make the checkmark. And I do that every time during the day that I have the body sensation of fullness. At the end of the day, I might have six checkmarks, more or less.
Task #1: Think of a simple pattern that you could monitor ,and do this checkbox activity for a few days so as to practice the routine.
Task #2: Now make the task more complicated. Pick an activity, a difficulty, that has some emotional significance for you. For me, I might use my pattern of criticism of others, a pattern that I generally hide from others, but it goes on via my internal speaking to myself. When I do, I also notice that my facial tone becomes slightly tight, again a sensation that I easily recognize.
I could monitor either my internal voice being critical, or my facial tone. The task is simply to make a checkmark any time during the day that these sensations occur. At the end of the day, I might have two checkmarks, or I might have twenty. It doesn’t matter.
Task #3: At the end of the day, or at least several times during the week, identify one checkmark, and complete the John James Game Plan (Email #10) for that specific checkmark.
Nothing more. There is no need to plan alternative actions.
Simple, yes. Complex, also yes!
Fritz Perls, the originator of Gestalt Therapy said that awareness in and of itself is therapeutic.
This activity is one of developing awareness. As you do so, especially as you briefly interrupt the other-than-conscious pattern, you will automatically find better outcomes for yourself.
Suppose the difficulty that you pick is very troublesome to you. It is likely that the behavior you chose as the checkmark sensation is very close to the end of the pattern, the outcome that you do not desire. It may seem as if there is no possibility of interrupting the pattern. It will seem this way especially if the process happens very quickly, in seconds or less.
Fair game. Simply do your best to record checkmarks, even if it is after the outcome that you wish to avoid. Simply put down a checkmark as you are able, and do the JJGP a few times a week.
As you monitor the specific sensation, you will also begin to notice that there was also some other specific sensation that occurred just before the checkmark sensation. When you are confident that you can monitor the original checkmark sensation, switch your attention to monitoring the sensation that precedes it, making this new sensation the checkmark sensation.
Continue to do this as you become aware of earlier and earlier sensations, making each in turn the new checkmark sensation. As you do so, you will find that your ability to interrupt the undesirable outcome improves in major ways. Whereas in the original situation, you may have easily become confused, or angry, or whatever outcome that was troublesome, you will now find that there are many different tools you can bring to the difficulty, obtaining better outcomes in many different ways.
It takes work; it takes time, but you can be in charge of your patterns, instead of feeling out-of-control and overwhelmed. You can have a better life, and better relationships with both yourself and with others.
Coming next: Emotional Triangles.