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React or Respond?

Welcome to Week 2 of my summer NOW series. I just decided to call it that when I read the definition -- a number of things of a related nature. Everything I write this summer (and maybe into the fall or even until the end of the year) will be something that's getting my attention NOW. I've got no "plan" or any particular "process". Fasten your jewel-studded seat belt and come along for the ride. I'm so happy to have you on board. 

This week I've been noticing how much we react to things rather than respond. You know me and my curiosity about definitions (courtesy of Google) ... see if you can feel the difference between the two. 

  • "Reacting is an instinctive, emotional response to a situation. It's often impulsive and can be influenced by our past experiences or fears."

  • "Responding is a thoughtful and deliberate action. It involves considering the situation, weighing the options, and making a conscious decision."

Our reactions may not always be trustworthy. Consider this: something happens and we often slide right into judgement -- Is it good or bad? Have we pretty much had the same behavior in relation to this event in the past? Is it a knee-jerk comeback? Has there been any real thought given to whatever occurred? All this could be happening over the simplest thing. For example, I've witnessed and been involved in a particular situation. Let me share what transpired.

I was visiting dear, long-time friends. One of them was late getting home from work because of unforeseen circumstances. There were no special plans on the table for the evening -- it was going to be low-key. When the person who was going to be delayed called to let us know, the other person said, "Now he's ruined the evening.". I was more than surprised because I had no special thoughts on how the evening would go. I guess you could say I was in the flow. However, my friend saw it as a great failure. My conclusion was that he had pictured things to go a certain way. Maybe he's been in situations before where things aren't as expected, so he reacts any time plans fall through. He may be carrying over his disappointment from many other instances. This is where the NOW comes in. We can only be authentic when we are in the present moment. Whatever is happening is unique to this time and space. 

I'm not criticizing my friend. We can all get caught up in a familiar way of being. Sometimes we get stuck in the repetitive way in which we take in news and situations. Sometimes it's as if we only know one way to react. It might even be comforting because it's so habitual. Taking the time to learn to pause, especially when we recognize the stress involved in our routine replies, helps us to be more genuine and real. 

This was one of the first gifts I received when I was introduced to meditation and mindfulness. The ability to diferentiate between a thoughtless reaction and a more true, contemplative response. We can choose to "see things as they are", not necessarily good nor bad, and never unable to be seen in a different light. 

The next time you catch yourself lamenting a certain event and you can feel how automatic your reaction is, stop and take at least one or two breaths. Ask yourself whatever questions might help you stay with whatever is going on only then and see if you can surprise yourself with a new response. It might help to know that the word comes from the Latin: to pledge again which is a solemn commitment. We can vow to stay present and following the Old French meaning "to answer", we can have a simple, honest comeback, without the dramatic embellishment. Enjoy your NOW. 

Remember, I love opening up dialogue. If you have any thoughts or questions, let me know. I'm always up for a good conversation!

Sending sparkles and love your way.


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About the Author




Barbara L Cummings, MS, RN

is a sassy Queen-ager whose mission is to co-create a happier, healthier life with and for others.

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