Changing Channels on our Thinking

Changing Channels on our Thinking — While certain aspects of our personality and behaviour are hard-wired in, what we choose to do with each situation is, fortunately, completely our choice.

In This Moment

The new book is through the second edit, and soon goes out to reviewers. meeting with a cover designer. Tentative title, The. Best. Relationship. Ever.

changing channels

I was finishing up a Bodywork session with a client the other day, following a discussion about her patterns of behaviour. She was noticing that, when something in a personal relationship went sideways, she found herself questioning, judging and blaming herself.

I said, “As we’re standing here, every radio and TV channel that reaches Waterloo is present in this room. That we can’t hear or see them is immaterial.”

She brightened, and replied, “We get to choose what channel we listen to!”

Obvious, right? Well, it is now that you are thinking about it.

Now, imagine there was a station that only broadcast hateful, judgemental, annoying, creepy messages. 247 sewer bilge about how terrible you are, or how everyone is out to get you, or (a client’s favourite message): If you don’t get straight “A’s”, easily, you are stupid and will never get a good job and will end up living under a bridge. (That last part is MY favourite!)

You’d think that such a station would never get a listener to tune in.

Yeah. Right. It’s got the highest listener-ship on the chart.

Yet, as my client said, “We get to choose what channel we listen to!”

Refusing to understand and practice “channel shifting,” refusing to see what’s “really going on,” is the greatest impediment to living full and rich lives.

  • One client has a friend who constantly berates and judges her. She ends the relationship, then “runs into” the person, and off they go, to talk. 95% of the time, the old pattern re-emerges.
    She tells me, in the words of today’s article, “I start listening to the channel that tells me that everyone has to like me.”
  • Another client has difficulties setting relating boundaries with her partners. She sets one, he invites her to cross it, she crosses it. Feels used and miserable.
    “I start listening to the channel that tells me to always say yes to pretty much everyone, and especially men.”
  • Another upsets herself any time something doesn’t go “right.” In an instant, she’s boiling mad.
    “I start listening to the channel that tells me the everyone is out to get me, and that I have to fight back.”

If I look, I quickly find a favourite channel for each of my clients, for me, and for everyone I know.

The joke, of course, is that the “favourite channel” is one of many. And, there are even one or two out there that promote stuff that actually works. (Being present, doing things differently — the stuff we write about!)

smooth blues

This rule applies across the board — even if I have a “real, diagnosed” mental condition, like depression or anxiety. If all I listen to is station, “O.H.M.Y. — the Poor Me station that rocks!” — I can guarantee staying stuck.

If I switch channels, and say, “Given who I am and how I am, here is another choice of action” — “Smooth Blues, station C.H.O.I.C.E.”, for example, then a door opens where there was a wall.

Changing the channel requires… changing the channel!

When things go wrong… especially then.. I must consider: “Will I try to fix this problem by repeating my pre-existing understandings, or will I let go of thinking that old patterns that never worked will magically work this time?”

I can still amaze myself over how willing people are to make excuses for clinging to what doesn’t work.

There is a huge difference between accepting who I am while also making better choices, and justifying staying stuck by defending and implementing what doesn’t work.

The appeal of “repeating what doesn’t work” is simple.

Change requires both effort and the conquering of fear of the unknown. Remember, 100,00 generations ago we huddled with our families and tribes around fires, trembling in the dark, and life was short, and brutish, and filled with predators and enemies.

Our “fear — threat” patterning is ancient and hard-wired.

We appear to be much more sophisticated, until we are “threatened.”

My boss doesn’t like me!” “I only got a ‘b’ — my life is over!” “(Wo)men don’t treat me right!” “What if I choose wrong?”

Suddenly, we’re huddling again, even though there is no threat. And we’re listening to the familiar voice of the DJ at “C.R.I.P.E.S. — the station that wants you freaked out and scared — ’cause it’s good for the ratings!”

So, is there ever a real threat? Of course! For most of us, there are likely one or two real threats in a life time. (Unless you choose a profession like cop, firefighter, military person — then, there are daily threats. Due to choice of occupation, not created out of smoke and mirrors.)

Living our lives in fear and trembling isn’t a necessity — it’s a habit.


It’s how I am,” is a cop out. Always. “I can’t help it,” is untrue. Always. “I’m the way I am because of what was done to me,” is foolish. Always.

What is true is that doing things differently takes great courage and great understanding, and most people simply don’t want to exert the effort to repeatedly change the channel.

Lazy and stuck is simple.

I found a pretty good quote the other day:

There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.”
–Charles F. Kettering

Understanding requires clarity of thought and shifting of being, as opposed to lip service.

The way I am is the way I am until I choose to make other choices. Getting all defended and annoyed is childish, and of course means you stay stuck.

This week, think about all you know about yourself, and go ahead and feel good about what’s working. Then, focus in on the things (behaviours, actions, interpretations) you know about yourself that regularly get you into trouble.

Wonder a bit what you are missing, and why you are choosing to keep enacting the things that get you into trouble.

Ask yourself,

What would happen if I stopped justifying and defending what doesn’t work? What would happen if I dedicated myself to coming into a place of understanding, and from there, into making other, better choices?”

What would happen if I changed the channel?

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

2 thoughts on “Changing Channels on our Thinking”

  1. Hi Julie,
    You’re welcome!
    And yes, it’s all about practice. Our “dumb” behaviours are always there, but we do get better and better at intervening between stimulus and how we respond.
    Glad you like the blog posts, and do keep in touch!

    Warmly, W

  2. these emails have all been leaving good thoughts with me — but the simplicity of this idea is so great, and one i’ve been working on. i’ve been reading these for a while and started forwarding them to a friend recently, who also loves your insights. and i’ve found myself more often consciously choosing how to react in situations where i normally freak out or get down/depressed. of course, lots of the time i still do revert to old ways, but i am so much more aware of it and letting go has been getting a bit easier. just wanted to say thank-you!


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