Responding vs Reacting

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

Respond don't react

How many times do you react to a situation before you’ve even had time to think about what just happened?

If you are like me, it happens way too frequently. Now, there is a reason for this and it all lies in our subconscious mind.

What Does it mean to React?

A reaction is snap judgment response, one that is built by our beliefs, bias and prejudices that all lie within our subconscious mind. A lot of what we do, we do without thinking. This is because our actions come from our subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is built from years upon years of memories and past events. The purpose of this subconscious mind is to store and retrieve data. We can however reprogram our subconscious using positive affirmations and gratitude journaling. If you start to focus on positive affirmations, your brain will be able to slot these positives into daily life giving you a better outlook on life.

Take this example, how many times have you considered buying a new car, or know someone that has recently bought a new car? Suddenly you see that car EVERYWHERE! This isn’t because the car has suddenly become more popular, it’s because your brain has focused itself on this car and suddenly your conscious mind is seeing it all the time. You can do this with affirmations, the more you think and say your affirmation, the more you start to believe it is true and before you know it, you are feeling more positive and seeing more of the positives in your life!

The Subconscious Mind

The subconscious mind is subjective, which means that it doesn’t think or reason independently, it simply obeys the commands it receives from the conscious mind. All your habits of thinking and acting are stored in your subconscious mind. It has memorized your comfort zones and it works to keep you in them. This is why it is important to try new things, keep setting goals and pushing yourself. If we do not, we will simply just mindlessly exist. When we try new things, it is our subconscious that makes us fearful and uneasy, it is the subconscious that causes anxiety and worry. Thankfully, we can retrain our subconscious with time, repetitive exercises and will.

Responding vs reacting

What this Looks Like for Me

For me, when someone says something that I perceive to be stupid or ask what I think is a stupid question with an obvious answer, I get annoyed. I react with a snappy, witty, sarcastic comment. This is because people reacted like this when I was younger so I perceive this as ‘normal’ and my subconscious has programmed my responses. Without even thinking about it, I have said something in return that is unhelpful and belittling to the other person that often causes me even more annoyance. When a spur of the moment plan arises, I feel uneasy and my go to reaction is to say no because I was not prepared, but this isn’t my conscious mind making this choice! When someone is late to meet me I get annoyed and hurt, again this is my subconscious. The difficult thing is breaking through those feelings and using my conscious mind to sooth my racing thoughts. I spiral so quickly and before I know it I am in a dark place from which I cannot escape.

So how do we use our conscious mind to help reduce these reactions and help ourselves and those around us?

By being more mindful and taking a pause we can better formulate our responses. By being mindful you allow yourself to notice that something has happened that might ordinarily upset or trigger you. The second step is to pause. We do not have to react immediately just because a reaction has happened internally. We can pause, breath and not react. In that moment of pause we can then consider what the best response would be. We can ask ourselves what response will help this relationship, teach and build a better partnership and can I respond in a way that will help calm myself down?

I cannot say how the results will be, I am writing this as a lesson to myself!

How to respond and stop reacting

So here is my plan:

  1. Action occurs

  2. I feel frustrated, stress, aggressive

  3. Instead of projecting the thoughts and feelings onto others, I will pause

  4. Take a breath and think ‘I choose to respond with patience’

  5. I can then formulate my response

  6. Then I can respond to the situation in a calm manner rather than react and fly off the handle!

Fingers crossed this pays off because I just don’t have the energy for being wound up and frustrated so easily all of the time. In time, it should (I hope) become second nature and before I know it I will be responding from a place of love, not reacting from a place of anger.

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