Do you sometimes find yourself reacting in ways you later regret? Reactions are part of our human physiology, family and cultural conditioning, and personal history. Our reactions can protect us, as in the flight or flight response, and they can comfort us when our emotions feel intense or unbearable. They can also provide us with a sense of the familiar, our identity, such as “this is what I like, this is what I don’t like”. However, these reactions can also create conflict and limitations.
Viktor Frankel wrote, “Between the 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.” This statement points to a way to work with our reactions. We can learn to recognize reactivity and pause, interrupting the flood of thoughts, feelings and stress hormones that may be hijacking us. We can then relate to our reactions from a place of greater calm and balanced reflection. Is there something our reaction is trying to express? Are there other feelings and needs to consider? From here, we are able to respond with choices that express our deeper values and intentions. Utilizing this helpful sequence of react, recognize & relate, respond allows us to act and communicate in ways that lead to more growth and freedom, so that we can develop the emotional resilience and confidence to meet life as it unfolds.