Reframe, Replace, and Rewire
The change process is a crucial element to almost everything we learn or improve upon. In two posts I wrote over seven years ago I observed that the change process takes place on three levels.
The first level is that of a behavior or habit that you want to change. The second dimension involves the psychological and emotional elements which support and maintain the habit you want to change. The third dimension is the biochemical/neurological wiring that the habit creates in your body and brain.
While you can acquire improvement by just focusing on learning a new habit, real change occurs (and mastery of a new habit usually only results) when all three realms are honored and respected. If you’d like a deeper explanation of the roles that habit/behavior, emotion/psychology, and biochemistry/neurology play in the change process I’ve dived into them in my two part series on Components of Personal Growth and Developement.
New habits Replace the old habits, and new habits done over time Rewire both our neurology and biochemistry.
So today I’d like to talk about the change process in slightly different terms. A comprehensive and efficient way for you to effectively make changes in your life is by reframing, replacing and rewiring.
Reframing means that one is encouraged to see things from an alternate perspective. The process of reframing allows one to stop being locked or rigid in the way one feels or thinks about their habit or bias. It opens them up emotionally and psychologically to news ways of acting and being in the world.
It makes sense that what we think and say greatly effects the way we feel. The way we think and feel impacts the choices we make regarding actions we take and how we respond to others. The way we act and respond forms our habits. The feelings and emotions we have when engaging in habitual activity creates our neural networks in the brain and secretes the biochemistry which is the basis of who we are and how we are wired.
Therefore, by changing our perspective and attitude we become more open and receptive to developing new habits. New habits Replace the old habits, and new habits done over time Rewire both our neurology and biochemistry.
An anxious person has anxious thoughts and feelings. These anxious thoughts and feelings have one engage in actions which exhibit anxiety. A person who thinks, feels, and acts anxiously will have an anxious biochemistry and be neurologically wired to behave in an anxious manner.
Oftentimes, people’s attempts to change something in their lives are limited or unsuccessful due to an over emphasis on one dimension of the change process or even completely ignoring the other two dimensions. Talk therapy often helps a person gain insight into why they behave or react in a certain fashion. Yet, gaining insight into why I get angry or have trouble sustaining an intimate relationship doesn’t, by itself, prevent me from getting angry or being toxic or self-sabotaging in relationships.
Reframing, Replacing and Rewiring are essential and interrelated elements in the change process. When it comes to the learning and mastery of a skill or talent it is best accomplished through the integration of habit, mind, and body.
People often try to end a bad behavior through just will power. In the language of the social sciences a person attempts to extinguish the old behavior by pure will and determination. Examples of this are when a person makes a New Year’s resolution to stop smoking, eating too much, or spending too much time on the computer. Such resolutions seldom fare well unless the person is able to find a suitable Replacement for the old habit. The replacement chances of success are increased the more the new behavior successfully addresses the emotional and psychological needs that the old behavior fulfilled.
Sometimes attempts at facilitating change focus on the biochemical level. The most common form of such a biochemical intervention is the taking of non prescription or psychotropic drugs. Yet, we often try to affect our biochemistry through other means such as exercise, meditation, or diet.
Pharmaceuticals seldom solve a problem, but more often than not just mask a symptom or shift the problem to another area. Taking an anti-anxiety or anti-depressant seldom cures the anxiety or depression, but does provide relief or causes a temporary change in one’s biochemistry deadening one’s unwanted experience.
Even though changes in biochemistry caused by increased exercise and healthy diet inherently involve the introduction of new habits, their long term success depends on the emotional and psychological needs also being addressed and met. While exercise biochemically elevates mood and provides needed energy, these benefits will have a hard time overcoming a highly stressful lifestyle, or a personal psychology dominated by self-hatred. Activities such as exercise or diet, which are inherently biochemical interventions, need frequent and consistent repetition if they have any hope of becoming durable and reliable facets of successful change.
Reframing, Replacing and Rewiring are essential and interrelated elements in the change process. When it comes to the learning and mastery of a skill or talent it is best accomplished through the integration of habit, mind, and body. Reframing tends to the psychological and emotional elements through providing the necessary shift in perspective and attitude. Replacing deals with the actual habit, allowing the ritual to become part of our body memory no longer being dependent on conscious awareness. When one habit is replaced by another the new one becomes reflexive and our default mode when we aren’t consciously monitoring our behavior.
A reflexive habit becomes wired into our neurology.
A reflexive habit becomes wired into our neurology. Each time we engage in the habit our body deepens the groove, the neural pathways, carved out by the behavior. Each neurological event elicits a corresponding biochemical experience. A new habit, therefore, Rewires us both neurologically and biochemically.
In therapeutic situations I have found it highly beneficial to pay close attention to the processes of Reframing, Replacing and Rewiring. A new book, The Parental Tool Box, written by my wife and I will be released at the end of this month. In each and every chapter we explore parenting strategies and techniques which help create a mutually respectful and rewarding home environment.
The various tools provided all incorporate aspects of Reframing, Replacing and Rewiring. The tools provided are not magic wands but means by which both parents and their children can find increasing joy and harmony in their interactions with each other.
Article written January 19, 2018 by Jim Guido.