Circumstances are Neutral

This is the second of a series of blog posts introducing the concepts of the Model (see photo below) that I use to coach clients.  Today we’re taking a deeper look at the first line of the model “Circumstances”. 

Now that you’re able to separate your circumstances from your thoughts, let’s step into the next concept:   All circumstances are neutral. Read that again.  All circumstances are neutral.  Now, if you’re anything like me (and you weren’t half asleep when reading that last line) your brain is saying, “Oh, heck no!”  It’s racing with all the worst-case scenarios.  Just in case it didn’t sink in, let me help you out with a few circumstances for your brain to wrestle with.  Remember, when we state the circumstance, we do it without adjectives, and in a factual way.   Circumstance: A driver with a blood alcohol count of .25 hit a teacher driving home from school. You found a note in your husband’s car stating “Can’t wait to see you tomorrow.” Your teenager was suspended from school for having marijuana in his locker. Your elderly father gave his credit card info. to a female caller who claimed to be your daughter (and was not).

They sure don’t seem “neutral”, do they?  But “neutral” does not mean: permissible, justifiable, defensible, or even allowable.  After all, if we justified/permitted anything and everything, we’d all be sociopaths, yes?  So then what does  it mean?   Here are some other ways to think about it. A circumstance is: reality just the facts of a situation data that our brain has registered a fact in (your) life an existing situation something that would affect different people in different ways something that is neutral, until we have a thought about it   That last sentence is key.  Consider any of the circumstances in the list of examples above.  None of those circumstances would affect the way I feel at all–positively or negatively– until I have a thought about it.  Let’s use what most people pose as their “worst case scenario” – my child dying-to walk through this.  If this were to happen across town right now, I could be joyfully laughing with a friend at home, cracking jokes and making plans for the future.  I would be completely unaffected by the tragedy until I learn what has happened and have a thought about it.  As soon as I do (“NO! It can’t be true!”) I instantly have a feeling.  The circumstance now feels  positive or negative, because my thought has made it so.    When I first learned this, I struggled hard.  Mostly because I mistakenly thought this equated to saying “there is no right or wrong, good or bad, and truth is subjective.”  That is not what I am saying, as it at would completely contradict my faith.  As Christians, we believe that truth is objective and set by God (even if we do not understand it).  I now see that “the model” I use for coaching was created by God.  It is how he has organized the world, and helps us understand how we operate within the world, as He created it.  I will dive into that topic in a future post, as I think it’s imperative to understand.  For now, just remember that it is our thoughts  about a circumstance (and not the circumstance in and of itself) that create our feelings (whether positive or negative). 

Application In yesterday’s blog, you make a bullet-point list of your circumstances and thoughts whenever you had a strong reaction to a situation. Then you separated the two, while identifying your thoughts and factually stated your circumstance in a sentence or phrase. With this new lens of the circumstance (the “C” line in the model) being neutral, see if you can recognize what thought you have about the circumstance that are causing it to feel positive or negative.   Tomorrow, we’ll build on today’s concept and take a closer look at the role our thoughts play in our feelings and the results they inevitably create!

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