Sometimes, we make an impulsive and poor decision before we think.
More often, however, we have at least a few seconds to think things through.
We feel ourselves start to get anxious.
To tense up.
We experience the tightening, according to Pema Chodron.
The tightening represents the thought patterns that occur before a binge, unkind words or any other behavior which is ultimately self-defeating.
The pattern usually goes – stimuli … tightening … unhelpful response.
Example – we run into someone who really knows how to push our buttons and they say something that we find objectionable …. we start to feel like perhaps saying something equally objectionable … on the fence … what do we do …. say something unkind back.
For me, my biggest struggle goes like this – food thought … ooh, I’d like to have that food, even though I know it is unhealthy, even though I have tasted that food many times and know the exact taste sensation that it brings … hover back and forth … what to do, what to do … feeling of an inability to say no …. ahh, screw it … eat unhealthy food.
May treat it as a reward. May tell myself it is just this one time. May do it just to make the tightening go away.
Tough to talk about. Tough to admit.
This pattern of stimuli – tightening – poor response is old. There is a ton of hard-wired responsive behavior tied into this.
So we should not expect to be able to change the pattern overnight.
Old habits die hard and all of that.
For today, if we experience a bad situation and feel the tightening, let us not run from it, let us not simply give in to the unhelpful binge or response.
Instead, let’s look at the tightening as a pathway to where we really are in the moment and just sit with it.
To recognize it. To see what it really is.
To know that other people experience the same tightening.
To breathe and reflect as long as possible before deciding … actually deciding … if/how to respond.
We do this in order to one day be free of the negative response.