Modelling My ‘Bad’ Behaviour

Go straight to Living List Embryos

This section of my blog will be dedicated to regularly updated lists with self-reflections on instances of some of my own emotional, thought and behavioural experiences.

Amongst my focuses will be:

The stuff of dreams

A bit odd? Precisely.  

Why??? From my observation, these emotional, thought and behavioural experiences are normal, frequent human responses for everyone.

Not you, you say? That’s definitely a possibility. Or possibly your perceptions of these experiences are different to mine. The only logical way to test and verify that would be to browse what I conceive of as these experiences.

I’ve personally come to view these emotions and thoughts as useful and informative internally, but only when we can have a comprehensive awareness of them…

Conversely, these normal emotional and thought processes so often translate to habits that don’t work for individuals themselves, and very definitely cause issues between people from the micro-scale of individual relationships to the macro-scale of society. Therefore, they’re reasonably perceived and reacted to with judgement, criticism, shame and blame both by us ourselves and by other people. These four reactions seem to act as a team of quadruplets, attempting to provoke social conformity in behavioural habits.

Rightly so, you might say? They’re habits that cause damage and need to be eradicated. They’re worthy of those reactions. Unleash Team Social Conformity!

Sure. These habits I’m exploring can cause damage. Sure, the impulses for judgement, criticism, shame and blame are understandable reflexive reactions. Most definitely, it’s my belief – I’m absolutely, passionately, irrevocably convinced- that where possible humans seem to work better for themselves and for others when they can become aware of these habits and learn different patterns.

But hang on… Whilst judgement, criticism, shame and blame are understandable reactions, an equally important, but mostly neglected consideration is, are they always functionally helpful reactions? What’s the effective impact, the real influence of the judgemental, critical, shaming and blaming reactions on sustainably changing these habits? 

Sure, in a court of law, for example, judgement, criticism, shame and blame are the aims. The judicial system is just the manifestation of the most expedient strategies westernised human ideas have developed, so far, for attempting to control others’ negatively impactful behaviour. Most expedient. Easiest. Ubiquitously relied upon, normalised and therefore unquestioned that there could be alternative approaches. 

Are the Socially Conforming Quadruplets actually the most effective reactions for compelling long-term, intrinsically-motivated behavioural change? 

I will explore this question with a diagrammatic argument:

Our emotions and thoughts are the root cause of our behaviour and its consequences. We seem to often ignore this in our self and people interactions.
Tap the source
Uh oh!
Personally, my selfie-ware stick is my most prized self-portrait tool. I don’t even mind so much anymore about the bad angles it exposes.
Stating the obvious, but sometimes I think we could all do with validating these very strong motivators for people to understand how the threat of losing positive regard might influence our lack of self-awareness.
Of course we so often defend or reject awareness of less ideal aspects of ourselves! In the face of judgement, criticism, shame and blame, illusory defences can feel necessary unless a person can develop acceptance of their less ideal emotions, thoughts, behaviour and impact.
Modelling our own recognition of our emotional and behavioural processes via self-reflection can be a very powerful, yet subtle and gentle tool for helping others to develop awareness, insight and acceptance of their less ideal processes. It helps people feel okay to contemplate their human ‘imperfections’ and still feel part of the ‘tribe’.

So, in the ‘Living Lists’ section of my blog I will be counter-intuitively and counter-culturally exploring my own learnings about the culturally perceived ‘negative’ processes I’ve noticed in myself in an attempt to normalise them a bit. The ‘living list’ aspect just means I will be adding to my reflections as I notice or remember them because that’s how self-awareness and self-reflection work- they’re ongoing processes that need time and observation to develop the understanding.

Owing to these time-dependent processes, it’s an unreasonable expectation that any person can instantaneously and immediately change patterns of behaviour which are motivated by complex emotional and mental processes. It’s something I’ve personally come to validate, but also feel some exasperation when I see other people repeatedly, naively, futilely expecting instantaneous change of others or themselves. So I am attempting to honour and embody this recognition in the way I write.

This ‘living lists’ concept seems a bit obscure and hard to comprehend, I know. That’s because the self-reflections of others don’t smack us in the face with our own ‘failings’ like a spoken criticism. Because they don’t come running at us with someone else’s agenda like a bunch of instructions or advice. Because we’re free to take from it what’s relevant to us, and recognise ourselves in the privacy of our own minds, without pressure in any direction from outside as it’s someone else’s story. Because we’ve had the freedom to make the learnings our own, the source of the self-insights we gain from hearing about others is often unrecognisable.

I think it’s precisely the gentleness and subtlety of this effect that gives self-reflection both its power and its under-recognition as a worthwhile tool for communication. So it’s rarely actively used as a form of self-expression, to build ongoing intimacy and understanding between people, for exploration of our humanity, to foster acceptance and self-awareness in each other. We preference advising, telling, instructing, critiquing, narrative- all very useful for particular purposes. However, they often neglect the internal processes the teller has undergone. They output product and neglect the process.

Owing to this subtlety, I’ll employ a psychologically manipulative technique for persuasion of the benefits of something. The testimonial. I’m going to self-testimonialise the rationale for my living lists.

Self-Testimonial: The Pantene Strategy

Photo courtesy of my imagination.

Hi! All my life I’ve been viewed as a ‘good’ person, kind, moral and empathetic… Relative to the spectrum of what’s possible in people. That’s what everyone told me, and no-one ever told me I was ‘bad’ as a whole person. Gee Whizz! This image of myself makes me look something like pure ‘goodness’.

Holy mackerel! In my youth I’d often feel frustration with others. Why can’t they act like me?? We must be fundamentally different. That frustration with other people was hard to experience, preoccupying sometimes. It made me wonder though, what is that difference?

Leapin’ lizards! That’s where my handy helper, ‘Self Awareness’ came to the rescue. I began to notice that my good ‘actions’ didn’t happen because I never felt or thought the ‘bad’ things! No sirree Bob! My ‘good’ actions were made possible only by my awareness of these seemingly ‘bad’ thoughts and feelings and how they might motivate me if I don’t make other choices!!

And Bob’s your uncle! Self-Awareness taught me that I get jealous too! Self-absorbed! Judgemental! Mean! Unknowingly manipulative! And all the other things I judge other people for and that ‘good’ people supposedly don’t experience.

What dark arts are these? Learning more and more about how this worked in my mind and my emotional patterns, I became delighted with realising a paradox. The single most effective skill for living life in a way that matches my values of what a ‘good person’ is, is to use Self-Awareness to really understand how my negative emotions and thoughts motivated me in ways against how I ideally wanted to be. I discovered what a wonderful perceptual illusion defensiveness is! Indulging in defensiveness gives me instant relief > Self-Awareness gets a dose of psychological capsicum spray > I can’t take responsibility for the negative impacts on myself and other people > I’ll just keep acting like my own idea of someone I may not like > Indulge in defensiveness > and round it goes!

Well, who wouldda thunk it?! It was making friends with my ‘bad’ stuff that helped me be so-called ‘good’! The ‘bad’ stuff all seems pretty normal and neutral to me now, really! The more important consideration to me these days is not about this stuff being shameful or bad (I don’t care!). I care most about how I act upon it and how I make amends. I am inevitably motivated by these things sometimes, because, well, turns out I’m not a supernatural being?! Golly gosh, I’m a normal complex human animal! So’s everyone else! Wow! The more I use my self-awareness to get comfortable with the spectrum of myself, the less I act in ways that I myself wouldn’t approve of!

Peace on (my) Earth! Self-Awareness has really decreased my feelings of frustration with other people. Everything it’s taught me has enabled me to try to act kindly towards others, even when I don’t like their behaviour. That’s because Self-Awareness helped me develop a whole lot of mad skills for communicating and interacting. This works well for me because I mostly get respect in return. Fancy that. I also trust my ability to make healthy choices about who I rely on and invest in! Turns out I don’t have to be dependent on the lottery of everyone else’s actions!

Thank you Self-Awareness! You’ve made my life easier. A special shout out to your affiliates self-acceptance, self-esteem, agency, empowerment, empathy, choice, empathy, self-determination, empathy. Thanks also to your products- healthy, close, growing relationships- “The only accessory any human will ever need“! And also to your technical team: self-reflection and the self-insights of others that have helped me consider my emotions, thoughts and behaviour from perspectives I hadn’t previously. Here’s to a life-long, continually developing partnership!

It’s the Patene strategy: “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen”.

“It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen”
90s Australian ad slogan for Pantene shampoo

From now on, I’ll be adding my self-reflections on some of my less ideal habits in this section: Living Lists Embryos