“Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you.”
— Aldous Huxley
There is a tendency at times, to react instead of respond to the people and situations we face. When we don’t get the responses or answers we hope for from others, then our own behavior can disintegrate into one of silence or outward anger, which affects our self-esteem dramatically. Additionally, this behavior teaches people that we are one to be avoided.
However, when we thoughtfully respond, it is a loving act to ourselves and others. They’re just doing what they do, but we can decide whether to react to them or not. It’s so empowering to respond in a way we choose instead of reacting inappropriately. It’s always best to pause first and think about how we want to respond instead of giving in to our first reaction.
When we engage in reactionary behavior, it can feel as if we’re sending a powerful message to the person we are angry with. Unfortunately, the only message we are sending is that we don’t know how to handle our anger, and any power we have to make ourselves heard will be lost.
Essentially, when we react in a negative way, we end up demonstrating the same intolerance or disrespect to others that we were upset with them about in the first place. Certainly, it can be true that people aren’t treating us well or aren’t who we thought they were, but our reactions are what often get us into trouble in the long run.
One way to prevent or reduce overreacting is to:
— Identify your triggers. You can improve your responses by looking beneath the surface and start to identify the stressors that trigger emotional upset, such as certain people, behaviors, or situations. You don’t want to just white-knuckle it and put on a brave face, but really try to get to the source of your reactions so you can experience a greater sense of internal peace.
For example, if you believe you’re always right, then you’ll be easily triggered by anyone who has an opposing viewpoint. This means that you’ll feel irritated on a regular basis, because there will always be individuals with divergent opinions. You don’t want to be a person who’s constantly seething with unexpressed anger, or someone who’s continually engaging in disputes and confrontations. It’s much more productive to look beneath your angry reactions and try to figure out why you feel the need to prove others wrong.
This kind of self-inquiry and the awareness that results, will help provide clarity on what tempts you to make reactionary mistakes. Then, instead of instantly reacting to an opposing point of view, you can respond more consciously by realizing that you can agree to disagree without all the wasted energy and drama.
Practice pausing today when disturbed, and see if you can choose a response that feels good.