Do you know if you are Responding or Reacting? 

I love this quote:

‘Between stimulus and response

          there is a space.

In that space is our power to

         choose our response.

In our response lies

         our growth and our freedom’

                                        Victor E. Frankl

We know that the difference may not sound vast however in practice it’s moments when we are quick to strike that leave us feeling rattled, frustrated and the hairs on the back of our neck standing to attention.

Responding in quick time tends to come with your foot full on the gas and it is this that releases the fast acting stress hormones, triggering our fight or flight response.

Useful in pre-historic times however less useful by todays standards. We are all affected by stress differently, reasonably what effects one person as a negative cause of stress may be a positive driver for someone else.

Stress: ‘A State of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’

So what does the acknowledgement of how we manage our stress levels have in respect of asking if we know if we are responding or reacting?

A stress reaction is when we tend to react automatically to a situation. Seemingly not aware fully of what we are doing, tending to be automatically defensive and our emotions take centre stage. Loosing sense of reasoning and making assumptions. 

On the other hand responding requires our brains to be calm, to have control over our feelings, to take stock and be consciously able to look for the bigger picture and have the ability to pause. Functionally and for the long term health benefits this is where we should strive to be. 

So in practice here it is: 

Have you ever heard yourself say, “She made me angry”, or “He made me feel like a failure”?

We all do it — ascribe our hurt feelings to other people’s words and actions. But the fact is, no-one can MAKE you feel anything. Yes, other people may ‘trigger’ you, and yes, it’s natural to feel upset when they do. But it’s actually your beliefs about the situation — and specifically, the unconscious demands you hold — that are really responsible for you feeling hurt, angry and not good enough.

This sounds bleak (“What, you mean I’ve been doing it to myself?”), but in fact that’s great news because your mindset is the only part of the equation you CAN control.

To give you an inkling this is how it works:

You accidentally overhear an acquaintance saying less than flattering things about you. Result? You’re left feeling enraged, hurt and inadequate or as another example you give a measured response to situation that is met by reactive resistance. 

But not everyone on the receiving end will react that way and feel hurt. Some will shrug it off as jealousy or a misunderstanding. Others might feel upset for a while but choose not to take it on. And others might punch that  “friend” in the nose. They all behave differently because each of them has a different belief about what’s happened.

But back to you. What’s really causing your hurt and “not good enough” feeling isn’t so much what this person said, but your unconscious demand: “People mustn’t say horrible things behind my back!”

Because when your rule gets broken (or even if you get an inkling that it might ) the “or else’s” kicks in.

“Or else it’s really bad.”

“Or else I can’t bear it.”

“Or else it means I’m rubbish and she’s a back-stabbing b*tch.”

And that’s what’s really behind the hurt and plummeting self-worth.

Understandable though it is to prefer that people didn’t put you down or undermine you, it’s irrational and illogical to demand it, because a) you can’t control what others do, and b) there’s no law of the universe that says people mustn’t talk about you — or, that if they do, they can only say good things.

So decide today that you’re not going to let others hurt you and take charge of what you feel.

When someone says or does something that “makes” you feel hurt or angry or any other kind of toxic emotion, take a couple of slow breaths to give yourself space for a thoughtful response.

Then, say to yourself, “I’d much rather it hadn’t happened, but I accept that it did. I don’t like it much, but I CAN cope, and their opinion doesn’t make me worthless. So what’s the best outcome in this situation, and what can I do to make that happen?”

This takes some practice but it’s really worth doing. It may not take all of the hurt out of someone else’s behaviour but it will definitely make you more resilient and better able to cope with what life throws at you.

So the key difference? Reflection – reflecting on the situation can be one way to gain this necessary understanding, to pause and ask yourself, a) whats that all about, and b) how can I use it? 

If  you find yourself reacting and becoming emotionally highjacked all too often and  are curious about how I can help you readily identify this and help regulate your responses then get in touch with a free breakthrough call. It matters not in which part of your life this is effecting you, as a parent, as a teen, school or the workplace!