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Switch Off the Automatic Pilot — Do Something Different!

October 22, 2011

Picture the typical family dinner scene. Doug and Tina are enjoying a nice, quiet meal with their four-year-old son. Suddenly, little Timmy spills his glass of juice. Doug jumps up, shakes his finger at the boy and shouts, “What are you? Stupid? Look what you’ve done!”

SOMETHING GOES WRONG Little Timmy is bewildered. What he doesn’t understand is that his Daddy went through the same thing as a little boy. His father relentlessly verbally abused him over little things like a spilled glass of juice.

Of course, when Tina confronts Doug with what has just happened, he feels bad for yelling at the poor kid. But he can’t stop reacting this way. What’s Doug doing here?

A ROBOTWEB? Doug is caught in a “robotweb”– a habit pattern–that involves every single part of him: his physical sensations, his emotions, his thoughts and his behaviors.

I call this habit pattern a robtweb because, like a robot, Doug reacts automatically and mindlessly. It’s a “web” because of the way these reactions have become embedded into nerve pathways in his body and brain.

The verbal abuse Doug suffered when he was a child created an angry, critical pattern of reacting—a robotweb–in Doug’s mind and body. Now, something little like a spilled glass of juice can trigger this robotweb.

When the habit pattern–robotweb–takes over, Doug mindlessly and automatically repeats the same hurtful reactions with his son that he experienced as a child. He goes on “automatic pilot” yelling and criticizing when Timmy accidentally breaks or spills something (He’s only four and still a bit clumsy for goodness sake!).

HOW DO WE CHANGE? So, how can we switch off this automatic pilot, this robotweb?

First we have to get honest and admit that we have a robotweb. Then we have to take responsibility for what we think, feel, and do. Next, we must interrupt the robotweb before it takes control.

IT IS CRITICAL TO INTERRUPT A ROBOTWEB The trick is to learn how to interrupt the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors of a robotweb rather than repeat them. The danger is that the more we repeat the reactions of a robotweb, the stronger it becomes.

A robotweb must be stopped, dead in its tracks. We must learn to recognize it and do something different—interrupt it and replace it with a healthier way of reacting.

If Doug understood the power his robotweb has over him and how to interrupt it, he would be better equipped to switch off the automatic pilot before it kicks in. The next time little Timmy spills his juice, Doug might say, “It’s OK, son. It’s just a glass of juice.”

Want to know more about robotwebs and how to interrupt them so you can live a healthier, fuller life? In her book, Become the Person You Were Meant to Be – The Choice-Cube Method, Dr. Beth Cujé sets forth tools and steps to help you understand yourself and move away from negative habit patterns. Download its first chapter for FREE. Just click here and get an idea of what the Choice-Cube Method can do for you. You can retrain yourself, change and grow, and engage life more fully.

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