Do You Act Or React?

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.


The Rela­tion­ship Saver

The Game­less Relationship

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