As an impulsive person, I’m more likely to react than not. However, in some cases, I find myself not to react while I should. It took me time to figure out the reason and I’ve finally got to know what’s the solution.
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.
My usual first reactions used to be hectic. It was tough for me to control my emotions and come up with a rational approach whenever something unpleasant occurred. Rather than letting my feelings calm down first, I was getting hysterical when something was not going as I had hoped. I was convinced that this way I could influence more the course of things. Nothing farthest from the truth. The result was almost always the opposite.
Reacting is relatively easy when we feel having control over people who are concerned or situations that come in place. All changes when something or someone seems above us. Then, it’s more likely that we refrain from putting ourselves to unwanted risk. That was the case for me. Reacting would mean leaving my comfort zone. Exposing myself to physical or psychological aggression. Changing the status quo of my daily reality.
Most of all the lack of reaction is driven by fear.
As long as I can remember, I didn’t react in numerous cases whereas I should have done. Be it due to a lack of courage or ignorance, it’s not something that I’m proud of. I’ve hardly ever managed to defend someone who was hurt as I was usually the one being hurt. Isn’t that strange? Knowing how bad does it feel, I should be the first to oppose. Nevertheless, not reacting was giving me a sense that I was not the only one to be treated that way. I didn’t want to be the only one. When I think about it today, I do feel embarrassed.
Watching movies or documentaries, I’ve been always wondering why people who experience the most dangerous situations such as tsunami, earthquake or a murder attempt get frozen, become paralyzed, don’t move, don’t react. I was shouting in my mind: Run away! What are you waiting for?! Until a moment when I saw my child falling down from a chair and instead of running to catch her, I got to stand motionless. This is when I understood that it was stronger than me. That all my inner self was screaming, but I couldn’t move either. Like in a night dream when you do what you can to run away, but somehow you get stuck at where you stand.
There are several situations when not reacting seems, though, the only reasonable thing to do:
- when you’re the object of unjustified gossips
- when someone tries to get you out of your balance
- when silly things try to distract you when you’re busy with something important
- when someone tries to manipulate you
- when someone tries to spoil you with negative thinking
- when self-doubt tries to break you
It is also common thinking among certain social groups that people who rarely react are considered as strong ones. As those who are resistant ones. Untouchable. In their understanding reaction is a sign of weakness. As far as I’m concerned, I see not reacting as building a wall of self-defense. An unreachable castle where you can close yourself up in order to avoid dealing with problematic questions. I would say it’s rather an escape than a synonym of power.
A great number of examples prove that not reacting leads to enormous disasters. Starting from a woman who’s beaten by her husband, going through incompetent people who become our governors and ending up by disrespectful approach toward people’s diversity. Let’s look at what’s the impact of not reacting to global ecological issues. What’s the impact of not reacting to meaningless wars. What’s the impact of not reacting to the rules set at the time of the epidemic.
Lack of reaction equals permission.
Think about every single situation when you didn’t react to what was happening while you should. When you ignored it. When you turned your back. How did your attitude change the course of things? Did it improve it? Did it prevent it? None of them. You let things happen. You were co-responsible.
You could ask: How do I know when I should react? There’s no explicit guideline what falls under that category. Of course, there isn’t. But you feel deep inside what kind of situation requires your intervention.
In my view, here are situations which require to react:
- when someone hurts you or others
- when someone offends your values
- when someone abuses you or others
- when someone tries to dictate your self-worth
- when your health declines
- when your loved ones fall
Does it mean I always react in the above-mentioned situations? Of course, not. I often hesitate and before I make up my mind, it’s already too late. But the more I get aware of my reactions or lack of them, the better I can act next time. The most important thing is to stop saying: It doesn’t concern me. It’s not my business. I have nothing to do with that. It’s not my fault. We’re all somewhat responsible for all that happens.
Since we’re just humans and our first reactions are not always the best ones, I like one of the zen habits which say: Learn to respond, not to react. The difference between responding and reacting is that the reaction is almost always instant while responding requires time. Responding gives you a chance to take an aware decision. To think before you do something you’ll be possibly regretting for the rest of your life.
Remember that many people will do their best to provoke you. To give you a hard time. To see you weaken. Remember that eventually, it’s you who decide on your reactions. It’s you who decide how to respond and whether to respond at all. Building strong self-control in this matter is crucial to managing every problematic situation in a balanced way.
How to give yourself time to respond?
It all comes down to finding a space where you can focus on thinking logically instead of thinking emotionally. Your response may bring a solution. Your response may improve things. Your response may change you and others for the better.
Do you react impulsively or do you respond in a well-thought manner?
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