What do you glance at first in a behavior? What if your dog has peed on the carpet, if the children have not done their homework, if that guy has just stolen our parking? Of course, we observe and react to the behavior by evaluating its “HOW”. I refer the term “HOW” to the tangible consequences of the behavior, in other words to “HOW” our environment has changed.
We see “HOW” the dog has peed, “HOW” homework are not being made and we think “HOW” to have them done, maybe before dinner. Especially, we “HOW” that guy has stolen our parking lot. Days ago I was walking with friends of mine, when we noticed a SUV parked in a forbidden spot (there were road- works), Occupying at the same time two parking lots. I threw some ‘mental insults”, then I stopped and watched the car, trying to understand the ”WHY ‘”of that behavior. Observing I was able to see that the driver had pqrked in that way because he was reading the plates of work in progress trying to figure out whether or not he could park. Observing, I could save a lot ‘ of mental energy that would be wasted in useless thoughts on “HOW” these people driving these huge cars, are disrespectful of the traffic rules. As you may have guessed by the term ‘WHY’ “I refer to the antecedents of behavior (the driver’s need to see if he could or not park his big car)
If we try to see the “WHY” of things we may find that not everything in the world happens to like or dislike us. We could see that the dog peed on the carpet because it was ill; we could see that we were “stolen” of the parking lot because the other driver had not noticed us. The yardstick by which we measure how things happen is, only our meter, our personal tool. We create our world with our experience and we are active players for what we hear. We can decide voluntarily what will have an effect on us. We are spectators of the SUV badly parked; focusing our attention onto the “WHY”, we can free ourselves from the emotional influence of “HOW”. .
My dear friend Ted DesMansions gave me the idea that we are co-arising with our worlds. We are centered on our individual consciousness, but at the same time we are part of an expanded consciousness that encompasses our experiential universe. I think that in order to stay centered in this universe is essential to go to evaluate the causes and not the effects of a behavior. The risk is that the emotional arousal could compell us to lose our “centerness” .
So when our dog makes us angry, or our co-worker just do not want to understand, let’s try to understand the “WHY” of their behavior: only in this way we’ll find positive solutions for a real and lasting change. The moment I understood the “WHY” of an action I can try to change the antecedents. This can be done without using negative solutions.If I do understand that my dog pees on the carpet because he is too happy when I come home after a long day spent alone, I can find a solution other than put his nose in the pee assertively stating my dominance (as suggested by some improvised and self-styled TV guru). I can decide to back home during lunch breaks, I can find a dog-sitter, I can give toys to keep the dog busy during the day.
The same goes for people. Needless to threaten punishment for a room left in a mess, if I can figure out why this happens: the boy is always in a hurry and… “after a while someone comes to fix?”. Let’s clench our teeth and leave the room in primordial chaos until the spark of order lights up. Or let’s teach that order pays: exchange each dress put inside the laundry basket with extra time out of home. I do realize that the search of “WHY” involves a greater effort than the simple answering to the “HOW”. Put the nose in the pee is easier than finding a dog-sitter or be back home during the lunch breaks. No nights out for two weeks is easier than negotiating each single pair of socks with extra time out. In other words, the “HOW” is written in large letters inside the brain, while the ‘WHY’ “is hidden and it is hard to be found . It’s our ingrained habit to observe and react to what is wrong or we do not like. The reason is easy to understand: our mind is focused on keeping us alive, with all the values in the optimal balance, with the primary resources available and abundant. This is the evolution “ plan A” . Every little interference with Plan A is seen as a threat, this is why we always focuse our attention to what we do not like, and usually what we do not like are the consequences. Let’s take a magnifying glass and look for the “WHY “. Let’s change our habist, and learn to receive and celebrate with joy and gratitude every thing we like about our environment. Let’s get used to the beauty!
Habits. May be so ingrained that it is extremely difficult to eradicate them (smoking, gambling, driving in an inappropriate way). Our will alone is not enough. One of the most interesting discoveries made by Skinner was shaping. What really works isn’t reinforce the goal behavior( this could too long and be hard to reinforce) , but reinforcing the approximations to the final behavior. If we want to quit smoking we cannot just stop tomorrow pretending to be successful. Rather we can gradually reduce the number of cigarettes and very especially reinforce the reduction in the amount of cigarettes. Find out why a behavior occurs explains which are the reinforcements that come into play allowing us in to handle them. The TAGteach can be helpful because it allows us to focus on the first and single aspect that lead to the outcomes we want. For example, for quitting smoking, to light the cigarette you have, first, to pick up the package. Why not draw a TAGpoint “package into the drawer”? when we will get the to package the TAGpoint will remind us what we must do to avoid smoking. Obtained the TAG, let’s pay our success with great (let’s look at the beauty of our action). For example, if we like chocolate …
 Here there may be a small problem: habits. Habits are nothing more than self reinforcing behaviors that allow us quickly and, almost always effectivly, to take decisions in order to survive. In this case, the “bad thinking” about the SUV focusing on the final outcome, it may be a habit so ingrained to be difficult to eradicate, if not with a great effort.
 Obviously this is just pure philosophy and theory. I am well aware that there are events that are totally and completely unjustifiable in their horror: Those events, trigger a huge emotional wave, so high and strong that submerge any attempt at rationalization. But apart from exceptional events, I believe that in our dailylife this effort could-and should-be taken.