Mindfulness Part 6: Reaction Vs Response

(TORONTO, ON) – A reaction is not good for you except, of course, if you are a goalie in hockey and have a puck heading for your head at 150km an hour. Reacting is instinctual and often it is identical each time the situation arises.

Is it possible not to automatically react to a situation and instead respond to it?

We have to realize there are many situations in our lives we can’t control. A great example would be deciding to head up a street and getting caught up in a traffic jam. You can immediately react and beat yourself up for a stupid decision.

However, where is that beating up going to help you except make you feel worse?

On the other hand, you can simply accept the turn you made and perhaps look for a side street to extricate yourself. Perhaps, even have a bit of fun, seeing if you can escape from the traffic jam.

Similarly, let’s say you have a nasty and tricky issue at work involving the usual people. The past few times it hasn’t been pleasant.

Along comes a similar issue with the same people, and reacting with anger and aggravation has you at a disadvantage before you have even started your role in dealing with the issue. You might want to respond with the view that this is simply another challenge where you might be able to offer a different perspective. You might even have some fun.

Perhaps, the problem rests with the fact that we think of our thoughts as if they are truths, though many thoughts are untrue.

Simply because you had a terrible time at the last opera you were at does not mean you’ll have the same negative experience at the next opera you attend. You may think you did a terrible job at a work project, but that may be entirely untrue.

Now, even if the thought is a truth, you are a far bigger person than how you may have reacted to a thought in the past. It’s just a blip in your life, so why freak out?

Have you ever noticed there is always a voice in your head that never shuts up? It analyzes, criticizes, advises, and plays with your mind. One effective way to control this voice is to meditate and cultivate awareness of the present, to blot the voice out or deal with it in a calm and rational manner.

There are many facets of this voice.

One warns and alarms you. Is it a realistic voice or is it overreacting?

Another voice is criticism of the situation and many who are involved in it. But, it is often mired in past situations and not in the one you are facing now.

The demotivating voice tells you can’t do this and that and, instead of offering a solution, beats you up as unable to accomplish a task. It’s up to you to either react to satisfy these voices or, instead, responding with creative possibilities.

We have to remember, when relating to other persons, the circumstances that a person may find him or herself in my have caused that person to react that way. As you should be compassionate to yourself, over how you have reacted, be compassionate to others.

Simply said, that person causing you grief isn’t all that bad. They are caught in a situation which makes them act in a particular way.

We should remember as well to be kind to ourselves and stop beating ourselves up for mistakes we may have made. Imagine being shot by an arrow. Best to deal with that situation instead of beating yourself up by having been out in the open, wearing bright clothes, or being persuaded to go out on the mission.

You only increase and compound your pain by such thinking.

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging your distress and suffering. It’s here with you and you can’t wish it away. Realize that humans make mistakes and you should show some kindness towards yourself.

No one is perfect.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen