Reacting means to act again, re–act. Reacting is based on what we already know and often so well that we do it automatically. Some reactions are very useful for our survival, like pulling our hand back from a hot furnace or jumping away from an oncoming car. In other words when our bodies sense danger we react without thinking. This kind of reaction is all very well in emergency situations, but the partner in our relationship may end the relationship very quickly without our even being aware that our reactions are automatic and counter to our best interest. So, what is the mechanism of reaction? If we can be become acutely aware of this mechanism whenever we are in a situation to react, or in other words, when our buttons are being pushed, our relationships and our lives may look completely different; we could be much more evenly balanced, avoid problems and experience a much higher degree of happiness. Reacting is a very useful survival tool, it is based on learning from experience.
Some experiences are useful to remember and remembering them at the right moment can save our behind. The problem arises when we react to the present situation which is SIMILAR to the past ones. For instance, you were bitten by a snake once and now you are afraid of everything that crawls, like lizards and such. An example closer to relationships would be that if you had an abusive father, now you think ALL men are abusive. Another example would be that your parents always told you what to do and now you get angry and resistant to ANYONE even asking you to do something. If you thought that your parents did not love you, you will think that anyone who expresses their love to you is phony and lying or not honest. In these situations you often tend to blame others for “making you feel that way” or “making you do certain things”. So, you get the idea; certain words and behaviors by others push your buttons or trigger memories of the past and you are simply RE-acting your past. You have no choice and no free will in the matter. You can now begin to see how this automatic behavior can be detrimental to your relationship. But all is not lost. You actually can take responsibility for your buttons; they are yours after all and if you didn’t have them nobody would have anything to push.
This brings us to the alternative. Being responsible for your actions means that you are able to respond, thus response—able. What does this actually mean, and more importantly, how do you be response—able? For most people responsibility is burden, fault, blame, credit, shame or guilt. I suggest that if you take responsibility as willingness to deal with the situation from the point of view that you are the one who has a choice about how you are going to act in a certain situation, you are going to gain power beyond your wildest imagination. Someone said there is a moment between any stimulus and a response and the choices that you make inside that window of opportunity is what your life depends on. As you can see, responsibility is a matter of free choice; it is an exercise in free will. Responding is not subject to your feelings or cognition. It is intentional choice in accordance with your values, ethics and morals and not some fleeting feeling, association or thought. These belong in the category of reactions so it follows that automatic reactions are irresponsible actions. Now it becomes obvious that no one can make you feel or do anything, ever. I do understand though that every action has its consequences, but you are ultimately the one who will make the choice about what consequences your actions will have.
Now that we have distinguished reacting and responding, I hope you can see that taking responsibility for anything and everything that happens to you in your life, no matter how unreasonable it may be, will make you more content, powerful, successful and ultimately happier than merely reacting to what happens to you.
Take charge of your life: be responsible.