Last night I made popcorn and brought it into my room. My dog Ellie followed eagerly as I picked up the first kernel. An automatic thought entered my mind which said, “don’t give it to her, you need to take the first bite.” It was a subtle sign of dominance. I am the pack leader and I must prove it by eating first. It was embarrassing. I handed her the first bite and said an audible, “fuck you” to myself. There’s probably a logical reason why this trigger exists, but is it necessary in the modern world? It was remarkably subtle and made me wonder how many little loops like this I miss on a regular basis. I’d imagine it affects my relationships with people too. Automatic responses that modify how people see me and I have no strategic control over it. I have been able to catch some of them though by asking simple, obvious questions like: what am I doing right now? Why am I doing it? And are there alternative options I’m not considering? It takes skill and regular practice to answer them in a useful way, but can help reveal even the most subtle of automatic behaviors.