Respond, Don't React
"Between the emotionAnd the response Falls the Shadow"- T.S. Eliot, The Hollow MenWhat does the difference between responding and reacting mean to you?To me, it means the difference between feeling an emotion and reacting to it, and feeling an emotion, noticing the urge to act, and stopping the process right there.
Between the urge and the action, falls a moment of decision.
We have a decision whether to lash out, to slap a band-aid on that hurt feeling, to act in a way that will level, to drown our sorrows.Or we have a decision whether to take a step back, to feel the emotion (but not become overwhelmed by it), to think to ourselves "I notice I'm feeling hurt", and be able to decide: "What do I really want to do about this?"When we take the second option, we have a chance to respond. We have a chance to express our emotions in a way that feels satisfying to us and clearly communicates how we feel to the other person or people in the interaction. We have a chance to act with authenticity and integrity, and ultimately to act in a way that we can feel good about later.When we choose reaction over responding, when we give in to that instinctive urge to scratch that itch, we lose that chance and we lose control.When we react, we're acting out parts of us that are buried, that don't feel heard and have unmet needs. These parts need to surface at some point, but in order to fully process them, we need to give them the chance to emerge in a calm, supported environment, not burst out uncontrolled.That moment of decision is our responsibility, which means that every time it happens, we have a choice:
Do we respond, or do we react?
I know which one I'd rather choose. What about you?Want to respond more and react less? You might be interested in Emotions from the Heart, a 2-week journaling course where we explore the difference between reacting and responding, and much more.
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