Have you ever been waiting for an elevator to come and hit the button over and over? When the elevator did not come, you hit the button again, and then again, with increased intensity (and frustration). You did this even though you knew, just like the rest of us, that hitting the button again and again, longer and harder, would not bring the elevator any faster.
It’s so pointless when you think about it, and yet, so common. And yes, we all do it from time to time. The question is- why? Why would we do something that we know is pointless, and then repeat is several times with increased intensity and frustration?
This is a fascinating phenomenon, and understanding it can give us a lot of insight into figuring out why we do what we do, and how we can stop doing things that take us nowhere.
Feeling Stuck & The Hitting the Button Phenomenon
Standing by the elevator and hitting the button over and over again is clear enough by now. It’s pointless. It’s silly. And, it’s nothing but an expression of impatience and frustration. But where else does it happen to us besides by the elevator? Well, you’ll be amazed. In many, many situations.
Let’s think about relationships. If you want something from your partner and discover, quite disappointed, that you are not getting what you need, you will probably feel very frustrated. You may need more affection or you may need more help with the kids. You may need more help around the house, or you may want more communication. Whatever your need may be, it is not met.
The sequence of events may look something like that: complaining, when that doesn’t work- fighting, when the fight doesn’t work fighting even more, shifting to crying and saying hurtful words, and from there the fights escalate. Maybe a door or two is slammed, maybe someone storms out or someone else is giving the other the silence treatment. All of these, although they seem different, are in fact more of the same. Because of the lack of success in getting what we want, we keep doing more from the same group of reactions, with increased intensity and increased frustration. Often, so upset that we do not even realize that we are doing more of the same.
Feeling Stuck in Life-Changing Behaviors or Doing the Same
We may want to stop, think, recalculate our route and maybe pick a completely different style of communication. This can be a heart to heart talk, humor, a change in our own behavior. Anything but more of the same has a higher chance of actually getting what we want from the other person.
With kids discipline, we tend to do more of the same as well. When a kid misbehaves, we may scold them. When that does not work, we may scold them even louder. If that fails, we turn to punishments and consequences. The question to ask ourselves here is: are we truly eliminating the undesirable behavior? Do we keep doing more of the same just because we are so frustrated at this point, and feel a need to ‘do something’.
If our goal is to reduce the frequency of undesirable behavior and choosing a certain course of action did not work, we need to pause. We need to think and decide if we want to continue picking actions from the same group of actions. Things like scolding, yelling, sending a kid to his room, taking away something. These are all the same course of action in varying intensity. Or, do we want to try something new? Some of these things being a talk, a change of location or format for the communication, encouragement, reading something relevant together, seeking positive influences. These are all different courses of action that we can (and should) explore if what we do seems to fail.
Finding Motivation to Get Unstuck
So why do we do it? Why do we do the same things over and over again with increased intensity and then get so frustrated when they do not work? The main reason for this is that our brain hates change. If we set our minds to react in a certain way, our brain is already wired that way. Challenging our course of action and reaction requires a lot of thinking. It requires a lot of energy and self-reflection. Unfortunately, we do not always have the time and emotional budget for it.
How to Stop Staying Stuck in Behaviors
On the other hand, wouldn’t you want to see different results when you feel stuck and frustrated? Must we always feel like we are stuck in never ending circles of doing more of the same without realizing it? I say we deserve to do better than that! To get unstuck, to stop doing more of the same, to get better results and grow in your relationships with so many people around you, here are the three steps to follow:
Step 1: Pause. Ask yourself: how much do I really want to change this? Rate how much you want this between 0 and 10. Nothing under 10 will work. This is because if you do not want it very, very badly, you will not put in the time and effort to challenge your pattern of reaction.
Step 2: List down your last interactions with that person. No, not in your head. In writing. Look at your list. Do you see a pattern?
Step 3: Now right at the bottom of your list write down three things that are completely different that you would like to try. And, make sure they are different. Very different from what you have been doing so far.
Keep your list where you can see it and go back to it. Monitor your reactions. You’ll be amazed at the progress and change that you can create.