Our “Default Settings”

Aug 30, 2010

In the language of computers the computer always returns to the default settings, the embedded code which guides the computer’s actions.  Lately I have been thinking that the phrase applies equally well to human beings. Does each of us have a “default” position that we return to when things are difficult, tentative, or unsettled in our lives? Do we have a tendency toward certain types of thought and action when under stress? Can we change the “default setting”—is it easy or hard? This computer term can reveal some emotional dynamics within a person.

Recently I have realized that my “default setting” was this for many years: “it’s not going to work out for me.” In the past anxiety has built in me when things are not going well. I begin to complain and cannot find peace. I cannot find resolutions, because I do not recognize a problem, the “default setting” is so familiar to me. The anxiety invades my thinking. No longer am I in relation with the Lord, I am totally absorbed in the anxiety; what’s happening to me? who’s judging me? what will happen to me if what I want doesn’t happen? The cause of my descent into anxiety is often a transition from the known into the unknown. Most often it occurs in a subtle way. I do not recognize the descent immediately or even in a few hours or days.

I much prefer dealing with the familiar I my life,  I do not like these times of indecision. When I finally recognize the anxiety, I ask the Lord to help me return to a state of equilibrium in which I can serve Him, other people and myself.

I don’t know if the “default setting” is set in our “hardware” or “software.”  Are we each born with a tendency towards a particular response to the stresses of life? Or do circumstances evoke a certain response in each individual? It may be that both propositions are true. In any case we must each find a way of recognizing this tendency and search for a way of reconnecting to our more essential self so that we can function well again. I do not think that we can change this response directly, but I do believe that over time it can be modified so that it has less and less power over us and eventually it won’t surface any more. There is a choice to be made between functioning with limitations in the “default settings” or changing into a better way of being.

These limitations to functioning are also the barriers between us and God(also to relationships, to others and to our work—all parts of our lives). They bring our attention inside, far from care for other people or for God. Our motive is self-protection, not self-care. If we care for the relationship between ourselves and God, it is important that we nurture the relationship and not let something come between us.

In these modern times there are psychological tools to use that can help change our thinking and behavior, but I prefer the action of the Holy Spirit. To pray about a dilemma with devotion and love signals God that our intention is to allow the Spirit to transform us and our “default settings.” All we need do is to put ourselves in God’s hands and the Spirit will do the inner transformation.

The onset of the limitations is an inner signal that we need to return to a good relationship with God and with ourselves. My son Peter was visiting from California this weekend. As we talked over this subject, he suggested that we approach it this way:  In the past I thought that it(whatever was in my life at the time)would not work out for me. Now I know that I rest in God’s providential hands and, in God’s hands certainly, everything works out for me.

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