We sold our house this week (hooray!) and now we’ve plunged into the bazillion details that go with closing down a household in one place and recreating it a thousand kilometres away. That has left me with very little brainpower to spare, so my conditioned reflexes are taking over while my conscious mind is occupied.
That isn’t as helpful as you might think.
The strongest reflex is my reaction to the ring of my cell phone. Before this all started I usually didn’t keep my cell phone with me, and the ringtone was silenced so I rarely noticed even if it did vibrate (much to the annoyance of my text-happy friends).
But for the past three months I’ve had an audible ringtone, and I’m so conditioned to answer it that I twitch even when I hear the same ringtone from someone else’s phone. I’m afraid to speculate on how long it’ll take to overcome that, since habits tend to stay with me long after they’ve ceased to be relevant.
Take, for instance, my habit of looking into the oven before I turn it on.
‘Waaaaaay back in 1986, my apartment didn’t have a dishwasher. I had cats and I didn’t always have time to do dishes; and I’d worked hard to train the cats to stay off the kitchen counter. Part of that process was to never leave out anything tempting. Dirty dishes are a kitty magnet, so if I was in a hurry I’d load the dishes into my dishpan and put it in the oven before leaving. I never turned on the oven without first checking to make sure the dishpan wasn’t in it.
Fast-forward 30 years. I’ve owned a home with a dishwasher since 1990, but I still open the oven before I turn it on. A couple of years ago I caught myself doing that and resolved to not bother anymore. After all, the habit had outlived its usefulness by a couple of decades.
But in spite of my new resolution, the next time I was baking I reflexively opened the oven before turning it on… only to discover that Hubby had left some parts in there (don’t ask me why). That’s it; I’m doomed to open the oven before turning it on for the rest of my life.
I still think I’m seeing cats in my house, too. Our last beloved cat died 12 years ago, but sometimes I’ll see an out-of-place object from the corner of my eye and think, “Cat!” before I realize what it actually is. And when we visit cat-owning households, my foot automatically goes out to block feline access to the exterior door when coming and going.
But the worst is my Pavlovian response to the television. The only times I ever watch TV are for major sporting events like the Grey Cup and Superbowl, or occasionally when Hubby and I watch a movie together. The sports parties are giant junk-food-fests; and the movies always include hot buttered popcorn. I start to salivate just walking by the TV.
Yep, Pavlov would be proud.
Anybody else have conditioned reflexes that won’t go away no matter how outdated they are?