Automatic Behavioral Reactions
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | July 2018 (edited November 30, 2021)
We're on auto-pilot. Ordained to arrive at predetermined destinations. But we can intercede, changing the program and becoming more than impulses dictate.
With humans reason, we mull chunks of data around the mind to create novel solutions and astonishing accurate predictions. In an odd deviation, the human brain stumbled on consciousness. It’s not only a human quality; but humans have the most robust consciousness. The stumbling I refer to is not a happenstance of a generation, but the refining occurring over millions of years.
We have a mind that thinks—and thinks a lot. We gather extensive data from experience, and tuck it away in memory, maintaining access to draw upon, mingling the past with the present. We are capable of logical solutions. Our capacity to reason creates freedom, providing an escape from automatic reactions. We, however, are not free from impulses to act. The body still pushes, often before we think. Biological urges drive us to respond, emotions twist and turn, enslaving the will. We are inclined to act before thoughtful contemplation. We thoughtlessly respond when nature beckons, giving in to pressures that are indifferent to an improved future.
In the whirlwind of life, we don’t have the luxury of time, to carefully evaluate every word and every action. Many situations demand more immediacy than a thoughtful approach can offer. A flourishing life balances in the undefined greyness between impulse and thoughtful action.
"We all have default behaviors. And when we are in the moment, trying our best to perform well, how we handle these automatic reflexes can be the difference between success and failure."
We refine this process by implementing healthy habits. Once responses are practiced and learned, we can turn over the reins to the unconscious direction of impulse. Other inclinations must be interrupted, driven from our character and replaced. This is the mindful project of growth.
Reasoning and logic aren’t necessarily the golden ticket. The conscious manipulations of perceptions have many pitfalls. We can reason ourselves into blindness, ignoring blaring faults, and nurturing destructive behaviors. Our reasoning must be refined to benefit from its vast gifts.
"A flourishing life balances in the undefined greyness between impulse and thoughtful action."
Habits and Conservation of Mental Resources
Our bodies (and brains) conserve energy through habitual reactions. Thought drains the reservoirs resources. We gladly just react, allowing emotions to direct behavior, and only then utilize intellect to justify, soothing the ego by softening our perception of any harmful and selfish behaviors. Selfishness flows easily. We naturally overlook ethical lapses and latch onto sophisticated explanations, excusing the meanness.
We’re not bound by the invisible chains of justification. We can free ourselves from these inhibiting patterns. But to reverse our direction, we must slow down. With attentive focus, we can mindfully evaluate impulses before another bout of carelessness, examining the proposed behaviors from a light of compassion, trustworthiness, and personal responsibility. We may, with a little help, elevate our lives, utilizing the gift of consciousness. A mind capable of examining itself. No more automatic stupidity but thoughtful advancement in a life of progression.
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