Believe in nothing, no matter who says it, even if I say it, if it does not agree with your own experience and your own common sense ~ Buddha

So, since I have such an intelligent and well-read readership, I know ya’ll have heard of the concept of priming (or at least that, rather than admit that you don’t know what I’m talking about, will get thee to Wikipedia. Since I can totally relate to that impulse, I included a link. Because I’m nice that way. And, hey, it’s Christmas.)

Now, I’ve known about priming since I was an dewy-eyed college freshman in Psych 101 (Prob’ly before that, but my memories are sketch cuz I got my head rattled) and I’ve always regarded it with deep suspicion.

Think about it. Merely being exposed to an image or a word with a positive or negative connotation will affect  your interpretation of the situation that follows. That’s brainwashing, right there. That’s wrong.

And because I had this big hangup about, you know, skewing my reaction to a situation, I resisted it, ignored the science and the implications and just carried on with my life.

We all know what’s coming, don’t we?

If the screen gets this rosy tinge to it, that’s me blushing. I’m pretty mortified at my findings.

Being of an inquiring and, may I say, intellectual nature, it occurred to me one day that I was actually using priming, unconsciously, in ways which were not to my advantage.

When there was something I didn’t want to do, I obsessed about how horrible it was going to be, what a waste of time all my unwanted commitments were going to be. And then, going in, the confirmation bias rears its ugly head (because you know me, I like to be right!) and things are every bit as sucky as I imagined. Yay, me.

So then I think, “Yeah, but, you know, these things I have to do could be just, objectively sucky.” Uh-huh. That one didn’t even make it past my bullshit detector.

So I resolve that I’m going to prime myself for a good outcome. I’m not “working on a group project by myself because everyone else has better things to do,” I’m, uh…..”I GET to work by myself and do some good thinking and planning about all the other projects I have on the go.”

So then while I was working, I tried planning, but I noticed this resentment kept popping up like every other thought. And when I tried to focus on all the pleasant planning I was doing (because I LOVE to daydream plan), I noticed that I really didn’t want to let go of my resentment.

Black and White and Red all over

Yeah. So. That’s a hard pill to swallow. I was getting off on being angry, and put-upon, and feeling like I made sacrifices above and beyond what other people were doing. Color me mortified.

So then, I was forced to examine whether that was my whole resistance to priming as a whole: That I WANTED to wallow in my feelings, whatever they were.

My dear friend Scribbles (that’s the Vile Scribbler to YOU) has pointed out at various times how dumb it is that people often equate “authentic” with “baser, primitive” reactions and raise them upon a pedestal above reasoned, sophisticated reactions. Which is a point that has new resonance right now. Suddenly. Ouch. (Sorry, this wound is a bit raw yet).

Moving On

With that object lesson firmly fixed in my head, I’m going to be paying a lot closer attention to what I choose to prime myself with. I’ve been moping about holiday traveling and christmassy overwhelm woes and the fact that the year is over and I didn’t get a damn thing done… Done. All done.

Because after I had that mortifying moment, I had the best day I’ve had in a long time. I got on a roll. I made it happen. I stopped at the end of the day without hardly a twinge of guilt, made supper for my husband and took the evening off because I could see that I was making my husband feel like he was worth less to me than my business, and that the sacrifices he was making were unappreciated. And I felt good.

To be honest, I felt like a fricking Pollyanna, and that was … weird. But in a good way. And I want it to happen more often.

Maybe you do, too. And to keep you from getting off the hook, put a blurb in the comments about what you’re going to change.

And Merry Christmas. Or whatever. Be cool.

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Comments on: "How to Make Your Life Less Stressful and More Enjoyable in One Easy Lesson (And how I learned Humility. Again)" (2)

  1. Thanks for bringing out this insight – sounds like ‘priming’ is a relative (cousin, maybe?) of ‘framing’ –

    I gotta scoot, I’ve got another Comment window (at least one!) open, and things to do outside, and it’s after Noon already! Yikes – K

  2. Hi Karen,

    It is, and it isn’t. Technically, yes, a rose by any other name is framing (which I also think of as “spin”)

    But I was specifically referring to priming as the imagery we use when we envision the future. In my minds eye, I anticipate the outcome of an interaction, and then, in the face of nuetral stimuli, I am already primed towards that outcome.

    The framing came in when I was attempting to reprogram the initial prime, as I went out there predisposed to be pissy (i later realized).

    In other news, I read someone’s blog the other day (Patty Lazarro?) that the actual emotion of anger (i.e the bio-chemical response) lives for only 90 seconds before it disperses. After that, you’re choosing to be angry. And if you’re choosing to be angry…why?

    Food for thought.

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