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Being curious about behaviour






Driving home from town the other day & this song popped randomly on, from liked songs I'd shared with Spotfire (interesting name for a music app, a fire that starts from embers, a spark, from the main fire), from one feeling to a completely another, something so random as a song, prompts a shift in thinking. Interesting how words shape thoughts, poems, stories, reports, research (aaah my favourite!); words from a song, words from a current or past friend, from a parent, stranger, colleague, teacher; what people say and how they respond to you, with you, in communication and in direction towards you, how someone else's behaviour can change the way you perceive yourself, repeated often enough alters the behaviour of the person receiving words when filled with hurt, harm; a motivation and intention to change the behaviour of an individual, to have power and control.


The old saying 'stick & stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' is just not true, words can & do hurt. However, we can learn to adjust our behaviour & response to the words of others by understanding why words are so powerful. There are many therapies out there that focus particularly on words, verbal communication and the words you say to yourself repeatedly, tell yourself, impacting on your behaviour towards yourself and others. If you are told something often enough, repeatedly enough, you may begin to adopt it as truth, believe it yourself.


I suddenly noticed just from listening to a familiar and particularly song, the changes, actual physical changes occurring in my body. I observed my breathing, noticed the tightness across my shoulders and back, pulled to the side of the road & took out the skills I had practiced for self-love, for letting go & allowed the music, the words, to shift the weight that had begun to feel unbearable. Nothing literally lifted, sometimes even when over time our body has learned to respond to particularly sensory stimulation, we feel powerless to create change, as if it is stuck this way for all time. However, it was time, a short amount of time to breathe through the tightness & it began the moment I became aware of the ripple effect of the song, the memory, the sensory response & the thoughts. I allowed myself to validate the thoughts (as non-ABA as that can be), the thoughts are real & then I was curious & listened to what my body was also communicating; I came back to my breathe, noticed the rapid breathing & began to practice mindfulness, commencing with awareness.


Some may call it distraction, awareness if far from being taken away from the present to something changing just your thoughts direction. I began to notice everything in the present, the sounds, the outdoors, my sensations. I consciously began to feel the breathe enter the body, where was it going? Was it in the chest or all the way down into the diaphragm? I imagined my tummy like a balloon, the breathe raising it slowly, inhale & exhale. In a very short amount of time there was enough distance from those feelings, I selected my feel good tunes & headed home.


When I am in the role of a behaviour analyst, I think, act & speak as a behaviour analyst, yet this is one of the roles, the experiences & skills I've developed over a long period of time. Despite our skills, qualifications or abilities, medically trained individuals may still injure themselves, have poor health outcomes & behaviour analysts have many experiences shaping their lives. When we know more, we can do more. We can choose differently.


Years ago I took myself off to Bali to become a yoga teacher, as a compliment to working with families experiencing and exposed to traumatic experiences. I learned as much about my own behaviour, western concepts of attachment, the wonder that is life & all it has to offer with choices to change direction, be more or less, be different, feel less challenging, than I did just about the practice of asana (the movements in yoga, which by the way is only 1/8th of what yoga is actually about). I learned happiness through the eyes & stories of families with so very little, some sweeping dirt floors & preparing meals on outdoor kitchens, with joy in their hearts & smiles for every visitor. I learned gratitude despite challenges, wealth or poverty. I learned friendship & human compassion, this is where I came to a fork in the road & kindness became the turning point. Life has never been the same since. Sometimes we can be so caught up in the experiences & lives that have shaped our own, it can difficult to stop, breathe & see there is a different way, there are choices & we can be the change we need in our own lives. Understanding behaviour, what it is, why it occurs, is the first steps in supporting individuals to change their own behaviour. Be the change.

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