This morning, I was inspired with an idea and asked my wife, Kathy to help me. I asked her if she could think of a time when I was upset.  She reminded me of trying to get technical help over the phone from someone in India. That reminded me of something that happened yesterday. Which lead to my insight about acting the part.

The Scenario

I’ve been having trouble with the scanner on my printer for the past few days. I had some time yesterday between appointments to do some organizational work and needed to use the scanner. I deleted all the software for the scanner and reloaded it.  It still wasn’t working. I thought about all the time I was wasting and felt extremely impatient and frustrated. Before re-enacting a scene from Office Space and taking out my frustrations on the printer, I decided to attempt one more fix.

Calls for Help

But I was interrupted by a text from my 25-year old daughter who has recently started a headband business. She sent picture of a letter that she got from the Department of Revenue and asked what it meant. As soon as I saw the text, my level of stress went up. I didn’t want to deal with her problem so I ignored her request at first. After more texts from her, I tried to disqualify myself as a problem-solving resource. She ignored my attempts to reject her requests for help and continued to ask questions. Finally, she called me.

Hearing the Answer

I answered with a tone inferring my irritation and unwillingness to help. But she ignored or failed to notice my passive communication and continued to express her growing distress, fear and desperation. After just a minute on the phone with her, I noticed my mood. I felt angry and impatient toward her. I then remembered that I had prayed earlier in the day for the willingness to help and serve.

Reminded of my intention for the day, my energy shifted immediately, and I was able to happily help her without impatience. My entire attitude changed. I suddenly felt inspired and was able to help solve her problem. After the call, my improved attitude was still intact.

Changing My Thoughts with a Little Help

My context had shifted the moment I remembered my intention and prayer. Although it felt like magic, it wasn’t.  My feelings changed because my thoughts changed. It is very hard for me to change my thinking. Maybe even impossible. So I pray, “God direct my thinking.”  I set intentions for who and how I want to be in my life and then ask for help to pull it off.  If you’re reading this and thinking I’m nuts you may be right.  It wasn’t that long ago that I thought people who leaned on God were weak and stupid.  But then I started trying it out and I’m accumulating overwhelming evidence that something happens when I pray.

Whether God changed my thinking or my my intentional conscious focus changed it, I really don’t know.  But it ain’t broke so why fix it?

Acting the Part – The Exercise

If the scene I just described were a scene in a play and you were the actor, you may be able to act out my part if you understood the context for my actions. If you could think what I thought, you would feel what I felt and could authentically act out the part. That is what happened this morning with Kathy. She did a great job acting out my part as I played the director, giving her more context until she got my part just right.

Setting Up Your Scene

Try it yourself. Think of an upsetting circumstance from your past as if it were a scene in a play.  Imagine that someone else is playing your part in the scene. How did you feel and react when it occurred? What would they need to know to convincingly play the part? You are the director of the play and you really want the actor to get it right. What context would the actor need to think what you thought, feel what you felt and authentically react as you reacted?

To provide that context, you would have to be aware of the motivation for the reaction you had in the circumstance before you could report it. You would have to tell them what you thought, what you believed, how you perceived the story leading up to the scene, how you felt, what you said and what you did.

The Exercise in Motion

Remember how you felt and how you reacted when it occurred.  Is there someone in your life who would be willing to be the actor in your play?

Ask them to act out your part in the scene. Give them their lines.  “Here’s the setup, here’s what happens, here’s what you are thinking and feeling and this is what you say and what you do.”   Ask them to act it out. When they don’t get it just right, cut the scene.  “Cut!”  Then, give them more context.  “What I forgot to tell you is that this or that happens. You think this, feel this, say and do this.”  Ask them to act it out again.  “Take two.”

Have fun with it. Notice that your actor can’t react the way you reacted without thinking what you thought and feeling what you felt and without knowing the story as you saw it at the time. Notice how much directing they need to help them get it just right.

Your Circumstance Determines Your Experience

If another person in the same circumstance wouldn’t react just as you did, feel how you felt and think what you thought unless you direct them, it should now be clear. It’s not the circumstance that causes your reaction. It is how you view the circumstance that determines your experience.

Notice that the circumstance in my story didn’t change. I still have a scanner that doesn’t want to work. My daughter still had the Department of Revenue to deal with. What changed was how I viewed the circumstance. Once again it has been confirmed. It’s what I think about what happens that determines my experience of it.

Changing Your Thinking Changes How You Experience Life

To change how you experience life, you will need to change your view of life.  Does your present context serve you?  Is your experience of life empowering or disempowering?

By exposing the context behind your reactions, you may notice a shift in both your context and your reactions.  But more exploration and practice may be required to permanently shift your context.

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