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"Changing Your Stripes"

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The Alternative to Cause and Effect:
Behaviors occur by Constraint and Response

 by Matt Moody, Ph.D. 

The word "Constraint" points to meaningful and interpretive impact upon people that narrows and limits a range of responses; yet the returning responses have room to reflect the individual disposition, perception, and choice of the impacted. In this instance, the word meaningful is not a synonym for significant, rather it is signifies: full of meaning, . . . meaning-full. Linguistic relations called "communication" are full of meaning and impact, thus they are constraining.

In contrast, the word "Cause" describes a mechanical interaction between two physical things. A causal impact always produces a necessary outcome, which occurs consistently beyond perception and choice. The result of a Causal impact is called . . . effect, whereas the associated answer to a Constraint is termed . . . response. Effects are not chosen, whereas Responses are always chosen.

But there are some Responses that feel very "un-chosen" — we experience them as if they are "un-chosen." I call them knee-jerk reactions. These particular responses are NOT actually chosen in the moment; while they do flow from us in the now, they were chosen in prior days, weeks, and months. The knee-jerk reaction is a type of Response that is the result of a cumulative pattern of choices, decisions we've made in prior days that set-in-motion an automatic and "unthinking" response that emerges in the now. Unthinking Responses are termed . . . Reactions.

Like a land mine ready to explode, knee-jerk reactions are waiting to explode at some future time as we are "stepped on." Irritating situations are inherently a Set Up for explode-able people. Again, not all responses are consciously chosen in the moment but flow from us unconsciously by virtue of a prior pattern of choices — they squirt out of us unthinkingly like a reflex twitch.

YOU are the ultimate author of all your Knee-Jerk Reactions. Each choice you make is like shooting an arrow into the air, it must land at some time and at some place. Once they are launched, arrows shot (decisions made) cannot be called back; and like arrows, choices always have a landing consequence. The knee-jerk reaction that erupts today is the landing of yesterday's "shot arrows." (Knee-jerk reactions are also explained under the headings: What's your PQ ? and Emotion as Energy-in-Motion).

* * * * *
I am not completely free to choose any choice.
My choices are determined by my present disposition,
the core of my character, the Good Treasures of My Heart.
Neither am I free from the consequences connected to my choices.
 * * * * * 

So a Cause evokes a necessary Effect that occurs between physical things, whereas Constraints set limiting boundaries within which a Response is chosen. Causes occur in the physical realm of your world, whereas Constraints manifest within the behavioral and meaning-full realm.

The phrase, "Life IS a Set Up," means that the world constrains you in every moment. Constraints are every impact that presses upon your life. Constraints can be helpful or hurtful. Constraints can encourage or discourage. Constraint is commonly called "Influence."

Constraints can intervene within your life as softly as a small pebble tossed into your pool of consciousness, or may manifest as an abrupt impact that crashes into awareness. While constraints do cause you to pay attention for a time, they do not cause your ultimate response in terms of subsequent thoughts, actions, intentions, or emotions--such are determined by who you are from your core.

* * * * *
While Constraints do "Cause" me to pay attention for a time,
they do not "Cause" my ultimate Response.
 * * * * * 

Communicative Constraints. Constraints press upon us in the common communications of everyday life. Constraints come in the form of spoken or written expressions, including the full range of nonverbal gestures and actions.

Communicative constraints may tempt, tease, entice, lure, coax, cajole, or persuade the recipient of a meaningful impact. However, such expressive and influential constraints always fall short of mechanical causation.
Constraints may confront you in compelling ways, but you always have interpretive wiggle room to respond in a variety of ways.

* * * * *
I begin to think Outside of the Box,
once I realize that I am living in a box of Continual Constraint.
This is my earthly Situation: Life is a Set Up!
 * * * * * 

In the end, it mostly doesn't matter whether the constraints that press upon you are real or imagined, as W.I. Thomas put it, "That which a person perceives as real, is real in its consequences." Or succinctly stated: Perception IS Reality.

But this idea misses the mark in one very big way: Independent of a person's perceptual constructions of reality, there are physical realities that stubbornly assert their existence regardless of how you perceive them. Herbert Blumer, author of Symbolic Interactionism, calls this stubborn nature "the obdurate reality of the empirical world." The word obdurate means "unyielding and obstinate."

The tangible aspects of reality can unexpectedly whack you hard in the head, and in such instances, even if "perception" does not acknowledge the existence of a low-hanging branch, for example, the tree will inform you of its reality in a very firm and memorable manner. Ouch!

Therefore, perception is NOT purely all of reality; rather, perception leads us to the consequence that we experience in reality. A reality that is both tangibly material and perceptually meaning-full.

Physical Constraints. Human beings are also constrained by the realities of a tangible world, the physical presence of both things and other beings. The physical world constrains us by low hanging branches, jutting rocks, cracks in concrete, etc. Such constraints can trip us up if we're not aware. Every object in sight is a potential influence that can shape our perception and our eventual choosing. Physical constrants like: swinging doors, slippery floors, bouncing balls, dirty walls, moving cars, or sticky bars — all these and a million more are physical objects that constrain the path of human behavior.

Physical constraints occur in both positive and negative ways. They can be pleasant and desirable, or intrusive and unwanted. A desirable kind of physical constraint occurs when people experience bodily closeness and physical touch that invites an amicable moment. Conversely, when others crowd space or block paths of entry or escape, such are examples of unpleasant physical constraint.

There is a point at which physical constraint crosses over a line to become physical cause. Physical approaches that fall short of forceful bodily contact come into the category of constraint. When those who are physically constrained can still choose a range of preferred responses, then, the dividing line between Cause and Constraint has not been crossed.

* * * * *
Cause & Effect occurs Mechanically:
Effect is a word to describe necessary outcomes;
Causes create Mechanical and Necessary Effects.

Constraint & Response occurs Meaningfully:
Response is a word to describe chosen outcomes;
Constraints present real and perceived boundaries to Responses.
Constraints invite and invoke Responses Meaningfully.
 * * * * * 

Causal impact only occurs between physical things, and since the human body is a physical thing (as well as a living being), our tangible bodies can be effected necessarily by intentional or accidental physical impacts.

Understanding the distinctive relationships between Cause, Constraint, Body, and Behavior is a key that can free people from unnecessary suffering beyond the necessary pain of bodily injury. When correctly understood and applied, these ideas can eliminate much unnecessary heartache and suffering that, as we will learn, is literally self-inflicted rather than caused by external forces.

* * * * *
Bodily Pain is a necessary Effect Caused by forceful physical contact.
Whereas, Suffering of Heart and Soul is optional and chosen
according to the character of the person impacted,
within the meaningful boundaries of Constraint.
 * * * * * 

A most important point bears repeating: Even amid outer abuses, inner liberty remains. This is the profound principle that Viktor Frankl learned through his experiences of extreme abuse while incarcerated in Nazi death camps.

* * * * *
As to Responses of Heart, Mind, and Soul,
ALL impacts that confront me both physical and communicative
are Constraints and never Causes.
The very same intrusive impacts that Cause Effects to my body,
only constrain Responses of Heart, Mind, and Soul.

The Principle of Inner Liberty means that no Outward Abuses
can cause the Inner Responses of Heart, Mind, and Soul.

 * * * * * 

Recall that low-hanging branch that whacked you hard in the head: This intrusive impact may have left a necessary mark that was caused, but thereafter, how you respond to the tree . . . is completely up to thee. In other words, the way you make meaning about what happened is only Constrained, and not Caused.

Causal impacts that forcefully batter and bruise your body . . . do not also mechanically cause subsequent responses of mind, motive, or emotion. To live well in this world, it is essential to discern distinctions between causes versus constraints, and mechanical effects versus meaningful responses.
(Changing Your Stripes, p. 16-18)

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