More than 90% of human behavior is reactionary.
Every day, people are faced with lots of things that require them to think, feel or act. In fact, all human behavior generally falls into two categories. We can either respond or react and although at first glance these two may seem quite similar, there is a great deal of difference between them. The road we take can have very different outcomes.
Responding is a state of mind which is:
It is creative, powerful and full of options.
Reacting is a state of mind which is:
It can lack creativity, wreak havoc and possibly limit one's behavioral choices.
This is an intricate process that begins with our perception or interpretation of an event that then triggers a thought which then activates an emotion, and finally leads us to behave. Events can be internal or external. An example of an internal event is a memory. If you interpret the memory as negative, you may feel disturbed, perhaps scared or angry, or sad. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a condition in which a memory triggers the same level of anxiety that originally occurred in the past.
An example of an external event would be a conversation with your partner about finances. If perceived through a negative lens, it could trigger panic, a sense of helplessness, or fear of abandonment. If you don’t give yourself time and space to sort out thoughts and emotions, chances are you will act out in ways that can be harmful to you and your relationship.
The first step in breaking free from a lifetime of reactivity is to be mindful of what is actually happening while it is happening. We can choose to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness that grants us the power to exert control and to influence the flow of events at those very moments when we are most likely to react automatically.
Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses 9 attitudes of mindfulness in this YouTube video.
So, if you find that you are in a more reactive mode in your life, rather than a responsive one, it may be time to make a change. And you don’t have to do it yourself. In fact, help
from someone who can give you objective data can be extremely helpful. Therapists are trained to help you recognize situations that trigger overwhelming emotions and help you to develop a frame of mind that empowers you to respond to life events with calm, balance, and acceptance. can be very helpful.
Perspectives therapists all work in this area and are capable of developing a plan of action that is tailored to you and the specific things you need to address. If we can be of assistance, please call 866.296.5262 to speak with someone and/or schedule an appointment so you can take that first step to change.
For more information about Raquel Ornelas, LCSW, click here.
Originally published February 1, 2019