Choices, Mindfulness

Do you react or respond?

Do you react or respond? As humans we do things on automatic pilot at times, like driving a car, or turning on a light. We don’t think about it, we just do it. We have our daily routines, we get up when the alarm goes, we jump in the shower, we clean our teeth – we just do them. These routines can be good, they give structure to our day. But there are other automatic behaviours that are not helpful to us, and they relate to communication.

We react to things, instead of respond to them. We have developed triggers in our lives over the course of our life, that do not support who we are today and who we are becoming. These triggers work against us instead of for us. These triggers and reactions are stored deep within us and we don’t even know what they are as they have become a part of us, and are difficult to see. What are your triggers?

One of my triggers is that I react and get defensive when people challenge me. One from the past is that I felt ‘less than’ when people didn’t notice me. My reaction is that I shut down, I go quiet, and withdraw. What’s yours? What happens to us physically when these things happen? We can have an elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, feelings of anxiety, muscle tension. Adrenaline is released in moments of great stress.

However, there is an answer to all this. And its very simple, really, although not easy. Its simply to breathe. Some call it The Pause. Take one breath. In that one breath is a moment of decision, a choice. Here is where we choose to respond or to react. Its about awareness again. However, these triggers cause a reaction, and these reactions are lightning fast. That’s where its simple, but not easy. In the moment of reacting, we can forget we’ve got a choice. We have to develop a new routine: change reaction to response. And we need to develop a new behaviour: take a breath, get in the gap between the stimulus and the reaction, and reprogram and recondition ourselves to this new pattern.

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