The Ability to Respond

Stimulus Organism ResponseIn Psychology 101 class we learned about the the Pavlovian stimulus-response (S-R) theory.  When a particular stimulus is offered it will illicit a particular response. For example, when a stimulus, such as an opportunity to steal, is available to the criminal thinker they feel compelled to respond and take advantage of the opportunity.  The changing criminal will often say they just react to situations. They blame the victim for leaving items unattended.  They see their actions as disconnected from their thoughts.

The wonderful thing about the human psyche is the ability to think before we respond.  A theory offered by a psychologist named Clark Hull added an “O” to the S-R cycle.  In his theory “O” stands for Organism, i.e. Stimulus, Organism, Response, S-O-R.  When a stimulus is offered it must be processed through the ‘organism’ before a response is made.  The organism is you!  It’s your brain, your thoughts and your decision to make another choice.  Just because the criminal thinker has always responded to a situation negatively does not mean they have to in the future.  The entire field of cognitive-behavioral therapy is built upon the notion that we can think before we respond.  We are not animals that only salivate ever time they hear the food can opening.  We can condition ourselves to turn the other way when opportunities to use drugs or commit crimes present themselves.  The key to this change is becoming increasingly aware of what is going on in the area between stimulus and response. In criminal thinkers, distorted reasoning, blaming, minimizing, diverting attention and other games are played in the area before response.  Actively involving responsible people, mentors, counselors and therapists into our thought lives is they key to recognizing our thinking distortions and accepting the challenge to change.

When was the last time you reflected on a negative outcome and the role your thinking played in the situation?  When was the last time you changed your typical response to a challenging situation?  What could you have thought differently to change your response?

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"An approach to the treatment of offenders which emphasizes the role of altering thinking patterns in bringing about change in an offender's life."