Growth

Become the Programmer of Your Life by Reflecting on Your Stress Responses

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When we are born into this world and grow up, we cannot choose the environment much at all where we are brought up. From the environment where we grow up, we inherit, learn and copy models for responding to stress. Let’s call these learned models scripts from now on.

Script is essentially a sequence of thoughts, emotions and actions that happen automatically and effortlessly in mostly unconscious mind.

Stress should be defined as influence that alters an existent equilibrium. Therefore inherently stress is not good or bad, it’s merely a sign that something should be done and thus triggers thoughts and emotions in us.

So when we grow up, and a stressor enters our world we automatically take actions according to the learned scripts. If we get hungry, we may go to the fridge and grab whatever we would like to eat at the time.

Since life is complicated, these scripts that are drilled into unconscious mind save a lot of time and energy for us. Yet to live a happy and productive life, scripts we have inherited, learned and copied may not always be optimal. The reason is simply that we are the very first version of ourselves the moment we become aware of this. Before we are aware of this, we are a product, not a programmer.

When we become aware, we become the programmer of our lives. Conscious time and space for reflection is one way to be aware. I write journal every day and try to meditate as well. From these activities I write down all thoughts I can get.

Best of all habits is to have time during weekend for such reflection, because then we can contemplate more deeply on what actions we have taken and have they been optimal.

As an example today I had such a reflective day which I spent mostly in quiet long walk. It’s during this walk I happened to go upon sea where I rested a bit and start my mobile phone and entered upon the realm of social media where I saw an update by a friend.

My reaction then and there was rather negative since the emotions like  uncertainty, inadequacy and jealousy a rose. I caught myself a few minutes afterwards thinking, why would I choose an emotional response to that?

I had to accept that I had a script that lead to rather unskillful stress response. Now that I had become aware of such unskillful script and accepted its existence, I could do something about it. Since I knew, I could choose the way I respond to stressors, I began to think what would be mature way to respond to this? I quickly found more positive things such as happiness for others, belonging and acceptance.

Actually it is through this reflection that changed the whole lense I am looking now at the happiness of others that is shared often through social media. I have to admit my ignorance: it’s a bit scary that I haven’t noticed this earlier in myself.

During the walk, I also decided to start practicing and deepening my bond with the virtues even more. In 2013 I used the virtue list, an idea from Benjamin Franklin. Yet now in 2017 since I’ve put more thought into my values and virtues as well, I thought I need to start practicing these in the same way, one virtue each week. Humility is on that list too.

Remember as long as we live, we are never the final versions, we are always under development. Are you a code produced by the chance and the environment or are you the coder of your own life?

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