My computer is magical. When I turn it off at night it remembers all of my settings, and every morning when I wake it up it looks just the way I left it the night before. How does it do that?

I'm told by my tech-savvy friends that computers have "defaults" built into them that if left alone will make my computer function with little input from me. I can change those "defaults," but if left alone can expect them to run with little maintenance.

Our brains function much the same way. I wake up every day with my brain functioning pretty much the way I have programmed it to run. I tend to think the same thoughts, act the same way, do the same things the way I've always done them.

Now, hopefully you can see the problem. These "defaults," or "de-Faults," can cause havoc in our lives. These "de-Faults," become faults that replay again and again. Unless we experience a profound intervention, spiritually and emotionally, we will do what we've always done, expecting different results. Unless we methodically work on changing the way we think, we'll end up thinking the same thoughts again and again. We'll have the same attitudes, beliefs, and mind-sets.

Now that's not all bad news, unless of course, your mind-set is a bit twisted. If, through trauma, stress, troubling experiences and addictions, you've developed some dysfunctional ways of viewing and navigating through your world, you may need to have your personal computer—your brain—reprogrammed. Those de-faults can be powerfully destructive!

I just finished a conversation with a very angry man set upon blaming his wife for everything that had gone wrong in their marriage. Separated and facing divorce, he felt threatened and out of control.

"I'm just so mad," Dale shouted. "Why does she act the way she does? She won't take responsibility for anything."

"You know Dale," I said softly. "I can see that beneath your anger is a lot of pain."

With that he grabbed his head, hitting his hands on the chair. He was frightened and hurt that his wife, Lisa had left him. He feared divorce.

"Being angry won't help you," I continued. "Blaming her for blaming you isn't going to get us much ground. Sharing your sadness with her might."

"She won't listen to me," he said, his eyes moist with tears. "She has her mind made up. She wants out so she can be free. Everything has to be her way. She…"

"Maybe it does for a while," I interrupted. "But the way you're viewing things now isn't helping you. We have to look at your 'default' method of functioning and see how that is contributing to the problem. Then we need to look at her "default" way of functioning. I call them our 'de-faults,' because they are faulty ways of interacting that create chaos in our lives."

"Oh, we do things the same way," he stammered. "No question about that. Same dance, different day."

"Yeah," I responded. "Join the human race. Now, let's get down to business. Let's play a different song, so you can do a different dance with her. Okay?"

"I'll do my part, Doc!" he said.

With that Dale and I laid out a plan for changing his de-faults so that his interactions with his wife would change. Here is our plan.

First, know your patterns of behavior. We cannot change anything we don't fully understand. Just like we can't change the way our computer looks or acts without going into the "default settings," we must do the same with our thoughts and actions. We must step back, reflect and consider how we naturally think and behave. If you have any doubts or don't fully understand how you "naturally" behave, ask someone close to you, willing to tell you the truth.

Second, consider the impact of what you do. After fully understanding your natural tendencies—your de-faults—consider the impact these attitudes and behaviors have upon you and others. Consider the ripple effect. List some of the ways these behaviors affect you. What is the most detrimental behavior you repeat over and over again?

Third, develop a strategy for changing your behavior. Scripture tells us that we must "renew our minds" if we don't want to be conformed to this world and our old ways of behaving (Romans 12: 2). We cannot simply wish our minds to change—we must change them! Reading Scripture and other good literature, listening to uplifting music, limiting our intake of television are all ways to change our mind.

Fourth, develop a clear, healthy mind-set and behavior change goal. Scripture tells us the Truth will set us free. Propose to tell yourself the truth, ridding yourself of lies and distortions that create chaos in your life. Scripture and wise counsel will help us know right ways of thinking and behaving. Outline a clear plan for change.

Finally, develop an accountability partner for change. Studies indicate we are more likely to stick to a behavior change goal if we talk about it, share it with others and have someone who will hold us accountable for change. They must know our precise goals, including a plan for changing attitudes as well as behaviors.

Do you have de-faults you want to change? We'd love to hear from you.

Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center and my Marriage Intensives on my website.

Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.

February 7, 2011